Meet Fiona, the Therapy Dog

What do wagging tails and willing readers have in common? Tuesday afternoons at Webb Primary School!

Every Tuesday, our kids at Webb Primary are graced with the presence of our canine-companion, Fiona the Literacy Therapy Dog. In partnership with Bow Wow Reading Pals and Austin Dog Alliance, our students now have access to an assisted reading comprehension and development program each week.

Together with her owner Ms. Gerrie, Fiona provides an added assistance to the crucial implementation of literacy programs that help our students improve their ability and comfort to read and write.

According to Austin Dog Alliance, Bow Wow Reading Dogs are certified therapy dogs who are trained to sit and listen while students read aloud. Their handlers, who are volunteers made up of retired teachers or principals, have been educated on how to help at-risk students learn to read.

Are there any other added benefits? According to a research study, (1) in addition to lowered blood pressure and anxiety, students who read in the presence of calm animals also display improved behavioral and communication skills. Raquel, Site Coordinator at Webb Primary, attests to this behavioral transformation that occurs when students complete their reading sessions with Fiona, “It's been a huge hit with the kids. They are so excited about reading because of Fiona!”

You can help ensure the literacy success of our students. Here's how:

  1. If you believe your dog would be a great candidate as a therapy dog, learn more about volunteering here.

  2. Donate elementary/middle school level reading books and give our kids a wider pool of resources to choose from.

  3. Sign up to volunteer in our afterschool program where you can have the chance to read one-on-one or in a group setting with our kids. Contact volunteer@sidebysidekids.org for inquiries and details.

Footnotes

____________________

(1) leRoux, Marieanna C., Leslie Swartz and Estelle Swart (2014). The Effect of an Animal-Assisted Reading Program on the Reading Rate, Accuracy and Comprehension of Grade 3 Students: A Randomized Control Study, in Child Youth Care Forum, 43L655-673.