JEFFERSON AWARDS

Therapy dogs help kids learn to read

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reading didn't always come easily for a group of Downey elementary schoolers, and it definitely wasn't always fun.

But through the program called BARK, short for Beach Animals Reading with Kids, they've found new partners who encourage them.

"It's much better to read to a dog, because the dog lays down and listens to you," says Ian Jaoquin.

Josie Gavieres started the program in 2007 with just a couple of therapy dogs at one school. Now, there are 95 teams of dogs and handlers, from Oceanside to Sacramento, in more than 50 schools and libraries.

The program also provides kids with books and teaches them to take care of their pets at home.

"Reading is important for all children, because if they can't read, they can't understand the history information. They can't understand the math problem. You can't get anywhere in life without reading," Gavieres said.

Kids who have trouble reading find themselves in a new environment with a different audience that provides them one thing classmates don't.

"Unconditional love," said Linda Bates, a BARK volunteer. "They're not judging you. They're not going to laugh if the children make a mistake. I've had kids whisper to the dog, 'You're my best friend,' where they might not ever say that to a person. But they're just unconditional, non-judgmental."

BARK will receive a $1,000 contribution from ABC7 to give to the charity of their choice.

The money they were awarded will provide kids with books. For some, the first books they've owned.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
public service, volunteerism, jefferson awards, rudabeh shahbazi
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