Zoom Reading to Dogs
In-person reading to therapy dog programs are popular because dogs don't judge, interrupt or correct and as the child reads their confidence grows. In May 2020, a partner middle school asked if a student could read to one of our dogs on Zoom. As we watched this middle schooler read we saw that the power of the dog transcended the screen.
Schools were shuttered and learning loss was a major concern, especially regarding literacy in the early grades. Children who fall behind early on, often have a difficult time catching up and the negative impact can be lifelong. We recognized both the need and opportunity to create an online reading to dogs program during the pandemic.
JCC Manhattan Partnership
For over 20 years, the The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan has offered after school tutoring to help bring children up to grade level in reading and math and close the opportunity gap. Now online, students receive tutoring four days a week and read to one of our dogs once a week.
In 20-30 minute sessions, kids share a book with a dog and their human. Each of our 50+ volunteers are assigned a child to read with each week. As they read, the volunteer and child assess the dog's interest in the story, conjecture about how the dog might respond in a similar situation, check in with the dog to ask for points of view and simply connect. Reading, normally a struggle, becomes fun and motivating. In a period marked by isolation and loneliness, the sessions offer a supportive, consistent relationship with a caring adult.
Since July 2020, over 90 children in 2nd-5th grades have read with our dogs. And, there is virtually limitless opportunity to expand Zoom Reading, as dogs do not need to be therapy dogs, and teams do not need to travel or necessarily be available during the school day. We believe that Zoom reading will continue long after the pandemic is over.
Dog Books for Dogs
What else would you read to a dog? A Fair Shake provides dog-themed books to get kids started, creating instant connection and assuring the kids have a book to read. As the students progress we offer books across topics -- about sharks, dragons, cats or biographies. In addition to learning to read, they learn to love reading and learning!
Volunteer with Us!
Because dogs are not interacting in-person, dogs do not need to be therapy dogs to participate. So, if you like children, have a dog and are comfortable being creative and spontaneous, apply to volunteer
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Director, JCC Literacy and Math Program