The following is an overview of pilot program results at one school:  

+ Benefits of the Program: Attitudes About and Confidence In Reading

All five teachers felt this program helped their students to:

Feel more confident when reading Have more fun with reading Feel less alone when reading Want to read more and look forward to reading Acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments Believe in themselves and in their own abilities**

Teacher comments:

“My students begged me for more ‘solo’ reading time in class. Many times ‘at risk’ students don’t have the feeling of success academically because they are not at grade level. This program provided the opportunity for them to feel successful at their pace and level. It was beautiful to watch them blossom and light up with confidence.” – Michelle M.

“I think this program was very motivating and exciting for the students. They were very excited to read or do classwork with their dogs. They were excited to learn new Tricky Trouble Words and they knew what to do when they came to a word they didn’t know. These strategies transferred to other class subjects and kids wanted to write down Tricky Trouble Words they were learning in Science or while reading our language arts anthologies.

As they learned how to care for and be kind to animals, many children spent more time with pets at home, and one student got a new puppy towards the end of the program. Many of the parents told me at conferences that their child was reading more at home and that their confidence had improved a lot.” – Teresa J.

“My students became more confident readers. Even my lowest readers chose to read their Tricky Trouble Words to the class during their presentation. My higher readers really strived at challenging themselves each week, and at times would come to me asking for their assigned at home reading level to be raised because they felt they needed to be challenged more – and they were right! I have had parents tell me how difficult it was to get their child to read at home in 1st grade, but that this year, they were excited to read at home with their dog or stuffed animal!” – Angela S.

I do think they got a boost of confidence as readers – and having the reading buddy makes it more fun to read. They were not alone when they had their little buddy!” – Len B.

“Alyha is a very quiet student. She rarely speaks in class unless called upon and then she whispers her responses. But the last day we were working on the brilliant boards, she came running over to the student teacher and myself and almost screamed at us that she had learned 27 new words and her goal was only 20! She was so excited and so proud of her accomplishments.”

“Christian is reading well below grade level. When asked to read, he says, ‘I don’t know how to read.’ However, when he was able to read with his stuffed dog, he was never afraid to read. He felt very confident with his dog, ‘Mr. Christian.’ ‘Mr. Christian’ really made it safe for Christian to try reading.” – Kathleen Y.

+ Benefits of the Program: Reading Progress*

Teachers indicated that this program contributed to their students’ progress in:

Reading comprehension Word study skills and knowledge Fluency

Teacher Comments:

“All of my students gained in fluency. Also, based on AR testing results, most of my students were able to increase their AR levels, some by as much as 1 ½ grade levels. As far as word study skills, I believe that my students have learned how to face unknown words when reading. Most of them would just have skipped the words before.” – Angela S.

“A large majority of my students’ reading skills have improved a lot this year. Most students improved comprehension scores and completed more AR quizzes. All of my students have made progress in the Lexia Core 5 program. All of my students’ fluency scores improved, and for students with involved parents, the fluency scores dramatically improved and I could see them applying the strategies they learned during this program when I tested their fluency.” – Teresa J.

“I think this program provided more discussion for parents and kids regarding reading. Many ELL parents are intimidated by the academic rigor in ELA and this program gave everyone an equal playing field.” – Michelle M.

“Jasmine currently reads below grade level and struggles with reading comprehension. She would read with ‘Tabby’ every morning during fluency practice. When we put our dog’s names into the book, Jasmine loved this idea. She was putting Tabby into every book she read. This really helped Jasmine with her comprehension. She was able to stop in the middle of the book and talk about the character’s feelings and actions. It also helped her utilize the book to look for answers.” – Kathleen Y.

“The struggling readers really excelled with the program. They wanted to read and to find ‘Tricky Trouble Words.’ When we first started the program, we went through 3 of post-its in about 2 weeks. The students were incredibly motivated to read. They felt very successful when they were able to read new words.”- Kathleen Y.

+ Benefits of the Program: Safety Around Dogs and Developing Empathy and Compassion

All 5 teachers felt that this program helped their students to:

Learn how to be safe around dogs Learn how to read a dog’s body language Develop deepened empathy and compassion for dogs and other animals

Teacher Comments:

“Many parents commented at Parent-Teacher conferences that their child had more interest in their pets and other animals in general. Students talked a lot about teaching brothers and sisters how to be safe around dogs. One of my students got a brand new puppy towards the end of the program. Two other students have shared that their families want to get a new dog.” – Teresa J.

“Daisy and her family decided to get 2 new shelter dogs during the program – they adopted a mom and baby. They got them their own toys and a bed. She read to her new puppy and to its mom.” – Angela S.

“Nora met a new dog and practiced her ‘meeting a new dog’ technique. J” – Angela S.

“When I gave the pre-program questionnaire, many students had no clue how to properly be safe around dogs, even though they had dogs of their own. I’ve seen and heard the kids protect other lives – even spiders – when before they would smash a bug.” – Michelle M.

“I think the students really learned how to be around dogs. Many of the students have dogs, but have never been properly taught how to act with a dog. The same is true with the feelings and body language shown by dogs. The students are around dogs all the time – they need to know how to act to protect the dogs and themselves.” – Kathleen Y.

“Adolfo is a student who has a lot of trouble being kind to other students. However, he was extremely kind to the stuffed dogs. He always made sure that the dogs were sitting straight and that no dogs were on top of each other. When it was time to get the dogs, he was always the first student at the ‘Puppy Kennel’ as he wanted to pass out the dogs. His compassionate side came out with this program. It was great to see him acting so kindly with the dogs.” – Kathleen Y.

+ Looking Forward: Would you teach this program again?

Teacher Comments:

“Absolutely, definitely! Yes! I wish I could teach it longer this year.” – Michelle M.

“I would love to do this program again next year and hope there will be money to fund the program and allow students to adopt/keep their dogs again. I would want to start it earlier in the year (maybe 3rd week of school) so students have their reading strategies and can set reading goals right away.” – Teresa J.

“I would teach this program again. The students LOVED it. The program encouraged them to read and taught them a lot of great word skills. The Tricky Trouble Words encouraged the students to push themselves as readers to find and learn new words. The program was great for the students and I would definitely teach the program again.” – Kathleen Y.

“Yes, I would. I will teach the program again because my kids loved the program and because most of them had huge gains in reading levels. J” – Angela S.

“Yes – it was a fun way to delve into reading – and all involved reading skills. And the dog theme is genius – I forget how much people love the companionship of their dogs!” – Len B.