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NECSD Empire Program Introduces "Read with Dogs" Program
In the summer of 2023, The NECSD Empire Program implemented a highly successful "Read with Dogs" program in collaboration with Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause. This innovative initiative aimed to enhance middle school students' reading skills and confidence while providing a therapeutic and engaging experience through interactions with trained therapy dogs and their handlers.
Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause, a local organization dedicated to promoting the positive impact of therapy animals, generously volunteered their time and resources to make this program a reality. Trained therapy dogs and their skilled handlers visited South Middle School as part of the Empire program, creating an environment where students could read aloud to non-judgmental and attentive canine companions.
The results were remarkable. Students exhibited a noticeable improvement in their reading fluency, comprehension, and overall confidence. The presence of the therapy dogs created a calming atmosphere that encouraged a sense of comfort and lowered anxiety levels. Students created digital stories about the adventures of our reading companions as well as thank you bandanas for each dog to commemorate our summer together.
Beyond the academic benefits, the "Read with Dogs" program interactions with the therapy dogs provided emotional support and a sense of companionship to not only the students in the program but also to the entire building and extended school year experience. Students and staff could engage with these kind and supportive pups as they walked through the halls or stopped by the reading room for a visit. This enhanced the social and emotional well-being of the extended school year program at South Middle School.
The collaborative effort between Newburgh Schools and Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause proved remarkable. The "Read with Dogs" program improved reading skills and self-assurance among middle schoolers and highlighted the power of animal-assisted therapy in education.
Photos submitted by Gerald Ortiz & Conchetta Carbone Degiacomo
Story submitted by Conchetta Carbone Degiacomo
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