Therapy dogs are helping young students build confidence and manage their anxiety.
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs Program, or READ, puts pups in classrooms all around the world.
Students say the dogs are changing the way they look at reading.
Brutus the pitbull is a bit of a celebrity when he walks into Silver Spring International Middle school.
Elijah and several other students to him every week.
“You think that reading is a boring thing, but with Brutus, he interacts with you at the same time, and it’s really fun with Brutus,” Elijah said.
Brutus doesn’t judge the students’ speed or their pronunciation.
Kelly Citrin with National Capital Therapy Dogs says it’s a confidence booster.
“It’s an amazing transformation.”
Brutus will alert Citrin if he senses a child is upset or stressed.
She says he often realizes a child needs him before she does.
“It’s just a release of any stress or anxiety,” Citrin said.
Fatima, a seventh grader, says her grades have gone up since she started reading to Brutus a few months ago.
“Sometimes you’re not feeling well and you just want to read, and Brutus is there to help you read and makes it better.”
There are thousands of therapy dogs like Brutus in schools across the country and even around the world. Each of them has gone through special training to learn how to interact with children.
“It’s pretty stringent. We worked every single day — obedience and agility, everything. He went from rescue to certified therapy dog in 356 days,” Citrin said.
Kelly says the work was all worth it and it looks like Brutus agrees.
The READ program is in schools and libraries all over the country.
To find the nearest one, or to start program in your school, go to therapyanimals.org.