Print subscribers please click here to create your digital access account
Southeast Elementary second-grader Cole Reed didn’t seem at all nervous while he prepared for his first reading session. He walked confidently to the stack of books and chose the book, …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Southeast Elementary second-grader Cole Reed didn’t seem at all nervous while he prepared for his first reading session. He walked confidently to the stack of books and chose the book, “Dog Breath.” He then sat down on a chair in the middle of the room and began to read the story about a dog named Hally Tosis to a very receptive audience: Maggie, a 4-year-old golden retriever, and her owner, Michelle Penfold.
Maggie and Michelle have been spending time at the school every week since the beginning of the year to help Southeast students improve their reading through a program called Bone Up and Read. A handful of first- through third-grade students are chosen each month by their teachers to participate in the program. The students read with Maggie individually every week for four weeks.
Assistant principal Donna Sulzman said the program has been a huge success.
“They (the students) absolutely love it,” she said. “We’ve seen an improvement in reading scores and seen an increase in their desire to read.”
Sulzman said when Maggie and Michelle finished their first 12-week session, it was so successful that they began another four-week session.
“The kids are more willing to read to Maggie,” Sulzman said. “They read to her, and she listens. They feel very comfortable. It really has encouraged the kids, and I think they feel more confident and secure.”
Parents of the students involved in the program have made comments to Sulzman that the program has helped increase their child’s desire to read. But perhaps the best evidence of the success of the program comes from the students themselves.
“It was very fun and it definitely made me become a better reader,” said second-grader Ethan Calderon.
“It was very great,” said first-grader Roman Spake. “I love reading with dogs.”
“It was very fun,” third-grader Bryce McGinty said. “I even got to pet her as I reading.”
“I like dogs, and I like to read,” said second-grader Gabe Lucio.
Maggie is a certified service dog and therapy dog. She was trained as a puppy in a New York prison by inmates through the program Puppies Behind Bars, and is registered as a therapy dog through the Delta Society. Michelle said her mentor gave Maggie to her and her daughter, Hawley.
Typically when a reader comes into the classroom for Bone Up and Read, Maggie greets them. She waits patiently as the student chooses a book from the stack of books – many about dogs – from Michelle’s collection. Maggie then usually sits with her head in the child’s lap while they read. Sometimes the dog even helps by turning the book’s pages with her nose, Michelle said.
“And I’m just there to help with reading techniques,” she said.
Michelle’s daughter, Hawley, is a second-grader at the school. She said she’s proud of the work her mom and her dog are doing at the school.
“Maggie’s fuzzy, she’s loving and she’s helpful,” Hawley said. “She gets a lot of attention from the kids in school. She’s a great soul.”
Michelle said she’s grateful the Southeast staff took a chance on the program.
“I’m very grateful to Donna and Brett (Minne, Southeast principal),” she said. “At Southeast, everybody’s been open-minded to the whole service dog piece. All of the kids are very respectful and ask if they can pet her. They’ve made Maggie and I feel very welcome here.”
Sulzman said she hopes the program will continue this fall with the new school year.
“I would like us to expand the program,” Sulzman said. “We’re so thankful for Michelle. We do whatever we can to get kids to read, read, read.”
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.