Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teaching aid comes with a collar

Kayla Brackett, 8, reads Dog Poems to Tipper, a long-haired dachshund. Kayla was one of 14 students who met their reading goals this month.


Kayla Brackett, 8, reads Dog Poems to Tipper, a long-haired dachshund. Kayla was one of 14 students who met their reading goals this month.


Tipper sure seemed to be paying close attention as 8-year-old Kayla Brackett read to her in rhyme. The book was aptly named Dog Poems, and the long-haired dachshund sat with Kayla in a comfortable corner in her master's third-grade classroom at Oakstead Elementary School. And while it seemed Tipper loved the stories, it was really the Cheerios that won her over. Kayla kept the treats hidden in her tightly clenched fist underneath the book.

Whether Tipper would stay on the pint-size couch depended on how Kayla handled the treats. Don't dole them out all at once or she'll likely hop down and start scrounging around for more on the floor.

Kayla was one of 14 students in Cindy Goldsworthy's third-grade classroom awarded the opportunity to read to Tipper for meeting their monthly literacy goals; read three books on their reading level and pass an accompanying Reading Counts quiz.

"I read because I like animals and I wanted to see Tipper," Kayla said when her turn was over.

That's the point — the incentive that Goldsworthy came up with after learning about a reading program in Colorado that saw struggling students' literacy skills soar when they read out loud to registered therapy dogs.

"As a school we're trying to get kids as excited about reading as we can," Goldsworthy said. "I thought, 'I've got a therapy dog at home. Let's see what we can do.' "

"The kids seemed to buy into the idea," she said, noting that all but four of 18 students met their reading goals this month.

"That's pretty impressive," said Susan Hoffacker, Oakstead's media specialist.

"I'm real pleased with the turnout," Goldsworthy said. "Hopefully it will catch on and they'll continue to read all year."

Canines in the classroom is a new kind of movement across the country.

It's no secret that children who enjoy reading develop better literacy skills than those who view reading as a chore. No doubt, visits from trained therapy dogs like Tipper can make reading time a more enjoyable venture.

Students who are self-conscious reading in front of classmates are often more comfortable reading to the dogs. That can be a real confidence builder. Dogs, it turns out, don't correct; don't judge like people might.

Tipper has already racked up lots of hours visiting with the folks at the Baldomero Lopez Veterans' Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes and seemed to enjoy her time spent with students at school.

"She likes dog books, of course," said Reese German, 9, after she finished her reading stint with Tipper. "It was very fun and I'm very excited that hopefully we'll be able to do it again. And even though she didn't sit with me the whole time she was very sweet."

Teaching aid comes with a collar 10/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning's Mathieu Joseph on the rise at development camp


    BRANDON — The last 12 months have been quite the ride for Mathieu Joseph.

    Mathieu Joseph checks Carolina's Jake Bean during a preseason game in September in Tampa.
  2. Pinellas legislators talk governor's race, policy at delegation breakfast


    If anybody was expecting state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to quit being coy and and announce his bid for the 2018 governor's race to the friendly crowd at Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative delegation breakfast Wednesday, they left disappointed.

  3. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  4. Florida Orchestra and Tampa Bay Master Chorale scrap search for a joint conductor


    TAMPA — After a yearlong effort, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and the Florida Orchestra have abandoned their search for a conductor capable of leading both groups.

    Doreen Rao conducts a concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra in December 2010. Photo by Enid Bloch.
  5. New in theaters July 4 weekend: 'Despicable Me 3,' 'Baby Driver,' 'The House,' 'The Beguiled'


    OPENING Thursday:


    One of Hollywood's most successful animation franchises isn't about "me" anymore; it's about them.

    Gru (Steve Carell) squares off against Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) in Despicable Me 3.