Therapy dogs help young students develop reading skills at Nassau County school

Stacey Sager Image
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Therapy dogs help young students develop reading skills at LI school
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Ogden Elementary School in Valley Stream is using therapy dogs to help young students build confidence and skills while reading. Stacey Sager has the story.

VALLEY STREAM, Nassau County (WABC) -- For many young students, reading out loud can sometimes be an intimidating experience, but a school on Long Island thinks it has come up with a way to help those students better cope with their anxieties and fears of public speaking.

The Hewlett-Woodmere Public School District is using therapy dogs during reading programs to help young readers build confidence and skills.

Odell, a 6-year-old yellow lab, listened to students at Ogden Elementary School in Valley Stream on Thursday.

"When you're nervous about decoding a new word and you're reading in front of your peers, it's hard, but when you read to a dog, there's no judgment," the district's reading specialist Lisa Forgione said.

The school brainstormed the idea before the coronavirus pandemic and contacted Therapy Dogs International.

"It's not just our job to teach them reading, writing, and math. It's our job to holistically approach education and find what works for each and every child," Ogden Elementary School Principal Dr. Dina Anzalone said.

Right now the program is one of its kind in the district and relatively uncommon, but as word gets out, other districts are asking.

The dogs are judgment free and so is the program because dog owners volunteer their time.

Odell's owner is a retired college librarian who said it's never too late to learn more about children's literature.

VIDEO | Meet Odell, the dog helping to boost students' literacy skills:

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