The thing about dogs is that they will never judge your ability or lack thereof to read. Ever since the lockdown began due to Covid-19, people have devised new ways of keeping themselves busy. Learners are learning from home, and people are working from their homes. The learning process especially has been made easier by an app called Zoom. It has always been around but after the lockdown, the app shot to fame and most people are now using it. This is especially true for some kids who are cheering up their audience from home while still learning. The audience? Therapy dogs! The kids are using the app to read to their furry audience and it’s the most adorable thing ever.
In an effort to help kids who are in the beginning phase of reading, a nonprofit group based in Washington has devised a method to help the children. The Washington group called People Animals Love has decided to take a very different yet familiar approach during this pandemic. At a time when public gatherings aren’t allowed, the Washington organization has decided to switch up its meetings to a virtual session. The virtual session is meant to help over a hundred children every month with their reading skills.
Case In Point
One of the students who seem to be heavily benefiting from the program is Nicholas Gaiani, a 6 years old, who has an audience of two, JP the therapy dog, and his owner and handler Fiona Lassiter. According to the Washington Post, the 6-year old who lives in Bethesda reads to JP every week. Gaiani is part of the People Animals Love reading session called ‘Read to a Pal Therapy Dog’. In as much as JP slept through most of the reading, the boy seemed to enjoy the session a lot. It is meant to give children the confidence they need to read out aloud. The session also encourages learners whenever they stumble through a few words. Gaiani’s mother Alissa is one proud and happy mother as well. She stated that Gaiani was benefiting from the program as the virtual program has enabled him to show off his reading skills.
About PAL (People Animals Love)
PAL is a nonprofit group started by Earl Strimple a retired veterinarian in 1982. The organization manages close to 500 individually owned dogs and a couple of cats to provide comfort to people in care facilities, prisons, and libraries. The organization has a young readers program which as mentioned above helps children with their learning skills. In light of the current global situation, the program had to be moved online to keep the reading service going. The executive director of PAL, James Haworth stated that there were many reasons why the program was favorable. According to him, part of the reason why the program was so successful and effective was that the children get excited about seeing a dog on their screens.
As is common, children always tend to get shy or scared when a teacher or an adult asks them to read out loud in front of everyone. This is particularly so if they are still struggling with the words and are afraid to miss some. According to Zoom Room, this fear is however not manifested when they are in the presence of a dog. Children normally gravitate towards dogs and aren’t intimidated by them. This factor makes the pups a more comfortable audience.Alissa stated that her son, Nicholas has had various Zoom therapy sessions. He also attended an in-person therapy session over a year ago. The Gaianis own two pooches themselves and the pups sometimes appear in the background of the sessions.
However, Nicholas’ mother stated that their dogs don’t fascinate him as much as the new ones on his screen do. She added that Nicholas enjoys meeting various new dogs and he gets particularly excited when he can recall a particular dog’s name. Alissa added that the Zoom session has made him happy as he is always excited to read to other people aside from his parents. She added that the sessions provide an outlet for the 6-year-old as he at times misses his friends. The Zoom sessions according to her help him break out of the same daily routine he’s grown accustomed to during this period.
The Reading Sessions
According to PAL’s website, the reading program frequently takes place at libraries in the Washington area where children get to read aloud to pets as well as pet them. Currently, PAL has two sessions that run for half an hour thrice a week and the sessions book up fast! Each session has two groups of about six or seven kids sign into Zoom. The kids’ ages range between 5 years to 10 years. Once they are signed in, every child is assigned a dog and its handler/owner. The sessions usually consist of an emcee that introduces the participants and familiarizes everyone involved.
The paired child and dog move into a virtual break room for a 12 minutes session. After the first session, the children move into another session with another dog. The kids usually pick their favorite books to read out to the dogs while turning around the book to show the pooch the illustrations. The children aren’t the only ones who like the program. The dogs too are enjoying the attention they are currently getting. JP’s owner Fiona Lassiter stated that even though he sleeps through most of the sessions he enjoys being read to as he finds it soothing. The PAL program has also managed to attract participants from outside of Washington.
To Sum it Up
With everything that is currently going on in the world, it is nice to see everyone doing their part. Parents have expressed their positive comments towards the PAL program and applauded the organization. Some have stated that it gives them moments of peace and they don’t get to worry about everything else.