Therapy dogs aid literacy at McMonagle Elementary

Therapy dogs aid literacy at McMonagle Elementary
Posted on 12/13/2018
Therapy dogs aid literacy at McMonagle Elementary School

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MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (11/16/18) - More Michigan school districts are embracing the idea of having therapy dogs in school buildings on a regular or full-time basis.

Westwood Heights is the latest school system in Mid-Michigan exploring its options.

On Friday, volunteers with Therapy Dogs International spent time helping children read at McMonagle Elementary School in Mt. Morris Township for the second time.

"Just talking to them, they love that so I think they relieve a lot of stress in a lot of ways and it just makes some situations that are unbearable a little bit happier," said Tammy Bartz.

She volunteers her certified dog Wally to help out. The 6-year-old Labrador Retriever was one of three dogs sharing his time in the school's library.

"They're enjoying it," said second-grade teacher Phillip Patterson. "I have these same children in my classroom and it's totally a different environment when they're faced with the stressors of reading in a group or reading in front of peers. That dog is not judgmental and it's much more effective."

Patterson said the animals could also help children deal with emotional and behavioral problems outside of the classroom.

"Anxiety, a lot of worry, a lot of angst. Sometimes people just miss that very pleasurable feeling in their life. We believe in having a differentiated focus so that means approaching learning through all avenues and one of the avenues is approaching the kids' cognitive domain where we teach them, but it's hard to teach a kid in their cognitive domain if they don't have a happy heart, and we call that the affective domain," Patterson said.

A social worker says the happy hearts spend about 20 minutes reading before moving on to their next lesson. The principal plans to make the therapy dogs' visit a monthly event for the students to look forward to.
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