Charles, the Therapy Dog Helps Second Grade Students Gain Confidence and Increases Reading Fluency

By: Kristen Wells, Marketing Assistant

Learning and developing the ability to speak in front of people is an art that most will shy away from. Yet, given the advances in society, it is a necessary part of life children need to be comfortable with. So, how do we instill this in children? How do we make them comfortable with opening up and putting themselves out there?

Charles collageSanta Clarita Christian School’s culinary arts teacher, Dawn Plew, believes it starts with the act of reading aloud and has a unique way of helping students learn this wonderful ability: his name is Charles and he is a licensed reading therapy dog. Through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Mrs. Plew was trained and certified to be Charles’ licensed handler.

Charles has gone through tremendous training to not only be comfortable around numerous children, but has come to love his time bringing comfort and joy to all of the kids at SCCS. Charles’ main goal when helping a child with reading therapy is to give the student confidence to read aloud. Many children struggle with reading aloud, as it is the first taste kids have at what it is like speaking in front of people. Many confident readers can struggle to read aloud simply due to nerves. Charles gives these students someone non-threatening to read to. “[There was] one girl who was very fearful and struggling with reading aloud,” recalled Mrs. Plew, “but as soon as Charles was one on one with her and the girl began petting Charles and reading to him, her fluency immediately improved.” Mrs. Plew tells us that the comfort Charles gives to the kids to release any embarrassment has really been proven to be an effective tool in not only fluency, but the ability to comfortably speak in front of people.

SCCS’ second grade teacher, Miss Essex, sees the true benefits in having Charles come in for once a week for center times. One center is coming and loving on Charles while reading to him. If there is a child who needs more than just center time, Mrs. Plew takes the student for a little one on one “Charles time” outside. Miss Essex has seen the confidence in reading fluency increase in all her students and looks forward to continuing this unique experience for years to come. As apparently does Charles, “He always knows and is excited when we are coming to see the students of SCCS,” Mrs. Plew noted.

SCCS is thankful to have teachers who truly care about the minds of their students and seek unique and wonderful ways to help children learn and grow.