LIBERTY — Students at Liberty Elementary School had a special end of the year celebration for their students who took part in BARK, a program where kids enhance their reading abilities by reading to dogs.
“Each student read with to a furry friend for 30 minutes each week for this past school year,” the school wrote on their Facebook page. “Reading levels have gone up, friendships have been formed and the dogs shared lots of love and kisses with our kids! We are so appreciative for SC Dogs and their kindness. It is a bright spot of every week!”
SCDogs Therapy Group, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with over 40 human volunteers and their wide variety of pets.
Their animals include rabbits and cats, as well as dogs.
Volunteer teams participate in animal-assisted activities (meet and greet activities, animal-assisted education, speaking to schools, community organizations) and various other community events such as fairs and parades.
Additionally, SCDogs visits nursing and assisted living homes, hospitals, mental health facilities and Hospice, among others.
They have a waiting list of facilities requesting their services and are looking for volunteers to help meet the growing need.
BARK is not unique, the program is part of a growing trend nation-wide where reading assistance dog programs are popping up at libraries, schools and nonprofit organizations.
Both organizers and participants say the literacy dogs are making a significant difference in the lives of children.
Because dogs are non-judgemental, children are less self-conscious and most children have a natural affinity and bond with dogs. This allows children to improve their reading skills in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Testing results show that it decreases stress over reading aloud in class and can enhance self-esteem, motivate speech and build confidence.
The dog participants in these programs are usually either certified Canine Good Citizens (an American Kennel Club program) or are trained therapy dogs.
Keeping in line, SCDogs (and their humans) participate in the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program with registered AKC evaluators. Teams must also pass the SCDogs Aptitude test.
“We strive to provide a very realistic atmosphere for testing and include any interactions the animals may encounter during our visits,” they said.
Dog literacy programs work particularly well with students who otherwise struggle, say organizers.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.