If you have come across this website, you are likely a parent, an educator, a lover of books or an animal enthusiast. Perhaps you are a few of these things. Whatever reason might have lead you here to us, we are grateful for your interest in Read to Roo. Please allow me a few moments of your time to explain some important factors of the program to you.
Our main therapy organization we are registered as a therapy team with is Pet Partners (formerly known as Delta Society). Pet Partners is the only national registry that requires volunteer training and screening of both the animal and the handler. It is through this process that teams are equipped to participate in animal assisted activities and animal assisted therapy. Once training is complete, qualifying teams are insured through Pet Partners and able to participate in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and schools.
The second therapy organization we are registered with is Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D., a nonprofit group through Intermountain Therapy Animals. This is the first comprehensive literacy program built around the idea of reading to dogs. The mission of R.E.A.D. is to improve literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors. Visiting teams are required to go through additional training and testing above and beyond their therapy certification. This helps further establish that the teams are trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament.
Each occasion we have to visit or hold a session is viewed as a unique opportunity to help others and is treated with a high degree of professionalism. These visits are not casual or simply a play date for the animal. Many factors are taken into consideration and prepared for. Among these, detailed care is given to the animals hygiene, including measures to reduce possible allergen reactions.
Despite all the efforts made by R.E.A.D. teams, there are still those who question this program. Why would reading to an animal be beneficial to a child? What could possibly be gained from this experience?
R.E.A.D., and Read to Roo, is not the typical remedial program. Children often see participating in R.E.A.D. programs as a great reward and they feel quite important. They have a sense of purpose and are a teacher of sorts to the dog, sharing a wonderful story with him that he could not have had on his own.
This program is ideal for many different types of students. It is not uncommon for a child to become self conscious and start to shut down when faced with the challenges reading can sometimes bring. Even the most socially forward and outwardly enthusiastic in other situations can start to doubt their abilities in academics. Children with self confidence and self esteem problems often have a dramatic turn around when given the opportunity to participate in R.E.A.D. programs. This program is not just to benefit those who have learning difficulties and disabilities, but rather to encourage and celebrate learning ABILITIES and the self confidence of all children should have.
A trained therapy animal, like Roo, makes a wonderful learning partner for many reasons. He cannot verbalize anything to the child. Not criticism, corrections, comparisons or judgement. He simply listens, eagerly and patiently, with an open mind and a willing heart. The moral support the child receives from the animal is without limits or conditions. If we improve the self esteem of the child, they will feel more confident in their abilities and we can look forward to a more enthusiastic, self assured reader. Additionally, countless studies have proven the physical benefits our bodies receive from companionship with animals. Among these, time spent in the company of animals can increase relaxation, lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety levels and reduce feelings of depression.
The program has many ways it can be adapted to different students, allowing it to be as unique as each child involved. The children do not need to be strictly limited to reading from books, but can also study vocabulary or spelling words, practice math facts, or study other subject materials that could use extra attention. The same positive experience is gained by the child, no matter what subject matter is covered.
As long as there is a need and I am able to, I would like to keep expanding the program to take in more students. Read to Roo, as a branch of the national nonprofit R.E.A.D., charges no fees for services provided. The program is funded strictly through support from tax deductible donations from the public. Money donated or raised is used to provide students with relevant items for the program, such as reading materials, educational reference sheets and small reward items. Soon I will have information up about sponsoring a child in the program. For a small amount donated, the cost of the materials needed can be sponsored by an individual. Please visit the Donation and Sponsorship page of the website for more information.
In closing, the Read to Roo program holds much promise for the future in our school. Given the opportunity and support, it can help the children become better educated students and more confident individuals. As a proud mother to a little reader, a lover of books and an animal enthusiast, I give my commitment to this program and the children in it. In educating the minds that will all too soon go out into the world, it is our duty to provide them as much help and support as we can. Through R.E.A.D. and the Read to Roo program, they will not only walk away as more highly functioning students, but will walk away with a greater sense of compassion and humanity for others, human and animal alike.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments. I look forward to hearing from you and I appreciate your time and interest.