Left to Right: Madelynne Stone, Omaiya AlSalim, Keyli Wagner take turns reading to Alice, a dog trained to work with elementary school children through the "Ruff Reading" program. (Photo Contributed)
Students at Ridgeview School love to read out loud, especially when those listening to them have a nose for the written word.
Earlier this year, the school instituted a program called “Ruff Reading,” which invites trained dogs to come into classrooms and listen to children as they read books.
The program is part of an agency called the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee, or H.A.B.I.T., which was established in 1986 by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
UT sponsors a variety of special programs in the region that promote pet visitation in locations such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
“Ruff Reading” is one such initiative. It focuses on school visitation by trained volunteers and their medically and behaviorally screened animals.
The H.A.B.I.T. volunteer works closely with school staff to help students reach their individual reading goals by reading to an encouraging animal companion.
Student participants have an opportunity to practice their reading skills with an animal in an environment that fosters security and confidence, leaders said.
At Ridgeview, third-grade teacher Hayley Hutson, H.A.B.I.T. volunteer Sara Phipps and her four-legged companion, Alice, work together to create a positive connection with the lifelong learning skill.