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Reading to a special listener

For the past year and a half, Jordana Deem has taught Literacy Classes in Excelsior's accredited Middle/Senior High School. She worked hard to engage girls who struggled with the very basics of reading. Many girls felt so bad about themselves because they couldn't read well, they acted out to avoid going to class or argued with peers in class.


Maria (16.5 years) never participated in class and wouldn't even talk to Jordana because her reading skills were so poor. One day, Jordana observed Maria smiling from ear-to-ear as she entered the room where her afterschool activity called Paws4Trust was being conducted. Jordana observed Maria working with Ben, a Bernese Mountain dog who is a TDI certified therapy dog. After the Paws4Trust session was over and the girls had gone back to cottage, Jordana approached Volunteers Jeanne Schoech and Marcia Eckhardt and remarked that she would love to have the dogs come to her classes. Coincidentally, Marcia and Jeanne had talked about wanting to do a reading program with the dogs. One brief meeting later and a creative learning experience was created!

Weekly, Volunteers Marcia and Logan, Jeanne and Ben and Barb Gierscher with Golden Retriever Dancer listen, help with pronunciation and check for reading comprehension. "I have seen a dramatic reduction in negative behaviors prior to class and during class since we began having the girls read to the dogs. The student participation has significantly improved and they are more engaged in learning", says Jordana. She has seen an increased desire to attend school regularly in general for these students because they feel they are learning, growing and having success in school for the very first time.

"The girls are not embarrassed or shy about reading because they have bonded with the dogs and volunteers and feel accepted for who they are. Girls who previously would not participate are now fully engaged the entire class period. They are also learning other valuable skills like sharing and cooperating as they take turns with other students reading to 'their dog'". "The girls are very supportive of each other and I have seen a real increase in positive peer interactions", reports Jordana.

The students tell Jordana that the best day of the week is Thursday, because that is the day the dogs come to Literacy class! Please help Excelsior support the doggie literacy program and other programs that help our girls learn and achieve success!

When you donate to Excelsior through Giving First, Excelsior receives 100% of your donation because Giving First pays all of the credit card fees associated with your donation. If you have questions or need additional information please call Kathy Graveley at (303) 693-1550 x226.