Therapy Dogs Host Virtual “Listening Sessions” To Help Kids Practice Reading During COVID-19

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Dogs are patient, loving, kind — and great listeners. That’s why therapy dogs are so useful in classrooms where kids are learning how to read. But since the coronavirus has closed schools around the country, millions of children have been deprived of their furry reading coaches, who comfort young students trying to make sense of new letters, words, and sounds.

Fortunately for us, some therapy pups (and their tech-savvy handlers) are finding new ways to practice reading with students despite COVID-19. Meet Marvin, a Portland, Oregon-based therapy pup who recently moved his weekly reading sessions into a safe virtual space.

“He’s really missed his therapy sessions, and helping students practice their reading skills is one of his favorite things to do,” said Kathy Loter, Marvin’s owner and a program director at DoveLewis, whose Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams logged approximately 7,000 hours of dog-to-student reading time last year.

At least until COVID-19 interrupted the program.

But Loter wasn’t going to let the pandemic suspend this important learning exercise — especially not now that parents were struggling to keep their kids busy and entertained during quarantine!

“Reading to a dog can really build a child’s confidence,” Loter told KATU2. “And we were happy to help out some of the parents who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged with their studies,” she said.

So when schools were closed, Loter starting brainstorming ways Marvin and DoveLewis’ other reading therapy dogs — Dolly, Farrah, Liberty, Lisa, Kiev, Kashi, and Misha — could connect with their students in a safe virtual space.

Enter “read to the dogs” sessions starring Marvin (or another of his furry counterparts) on Facebook Live on Tuesday afternoons between 1-2pm. The concept was an instant hit. After 500 viewers tuned in for a recent event, Dolly, Farrah, Liberty, Lisa, Kiev, Kashi, and Misha were also recruited to help Marvin host daily listening sessions on DoveLewis’ Facebook page.

Our #therapydogs will be going #live every weekday this week for a virtual read to the dogs event! Have your kids pick…

Posted by DoveLewis on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“Our #therapydogs will be going #live every weekday this week for a virtual read to the dogs event!” DoveLewis wrote on their Facebook page. “Have your kids pick their favorite short #story and join the broadcast to #read aloud the dogs!”

“Meet dogs like Dolly and Farrah as they go live from 1-2pm each day for this fun #stayathome activity with the kids! Dogs are great listeners so kids can practice their reading skills and our therapy dogs are so excited to offer #virtual support for everyone.”

See you there!

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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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