Northside Elementary School fifth-graders celebrated the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday by reading Thanksgiving-related stories to therapy dogs Ginger, Joey and Toby on Nov. 20. The visit was part of the school's pet therapy reading program with Bideawee, a pet welfare organization serving metropolitan New York and Long Island.
About four dogs and their owners visit the school once a month to encourage and help build students' confidence for those who struggle with reading. The dogs create a fun and relaxed environment free of judgement for students to read. Three groups were formed, led by Ginger's owner Josine Mash, Joey's owner Marcia Berrios and Toby's owner Loretta Keating. The small reading groups allowed the students to take turns reading aloud to their canine friend.
Throughout the visit, the groups read different Thanksgiving books and then rotated for the chance to read to each of the therapy dogs. The partnership between Bideawee and Northside Elementary School was formed after Assistant Principal Dyanne Case, who was a reading specialist at the school, read "Rosie: A Visiting Dog's Story" by Stephanie Calmenson. She was inspired to find an organization that could come into the classroom and comfort students as they read. Reading specialists Wendy Milcetic and Emilia Peters now help coordinate the visits with Bideawee.
During the readings, students enjoyed petting their furry friend as their peers read the books aloud. After reading, the fifth-graders watched in amazement as the dogs showcased some of their special tricks before going home for the day.