GARFIELD HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - A four-legged guest at
in Garfield Heights is changing reading time like never before.
Last month, St. Benedict introduced the
program. During 20 minute reading sessions, therapy dogs join the children and accompany them as they read aloud.
70 students grades kindergarten through fourth are participating in the program.
Third graders are fond of one of the therapy dogs named Juno.
Azzan Johnson, a third grade student, explains that he feels at ease reading to Juno, and doesn't worry about making embarrassing mistakes.
"It doesn't bark it just stays there and listens," said Johnson.
"When I'm reading with my classmates I get nervous, but when I'm with Juno and I make a mistake it's okay, she's very calm."
Charlie Young, another third grade student in the small group, says Juno reminds her of her own dog at home and that makes her feel comfortable.
"It's nice to be around dogs. I've always loved animals so much," said Young.
Juno creates a stress-free atmosphere that principal Lisa Oriti says helps her students build confidence and self esteem while reading.
"They feel free to read to the dog, they're not intimidated by the dog," said Oriti.
Oriti says that St. Benedict is always striving to provide engaging and enriching programs for students, and she's already pleased with the results she's observed in the short time since the program began.
"We have already seen an improvement in their fluency," said Oriti.
For Johnson, the combination of dogs and reading makes it fun to learn and she says she looks forward to the sessions.
"I feel like since I'm with one thing that I love so much and another thing that I love so much it makes me like both things more," said Johnson.
Oriti says that she would like to bring the program back for the full school year next fall.