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Westport Elementary early readers read books to shelter dogs

Dog web


First-grader Abigail Boyet had two things she wanted to do: pet a puppy and then read to a puppy.

“I love to give puppy dogs kisses,” said Abigail. “I love puppies and dogs. I love to read, too."

Abigail was one of dozens of students at Westport K-8 School who met and read to shelter dogs as a literacy and service learning experience. In small groups and seated on the floor of their library, students read books about dogs to dogs, visiting from the C.A.R.E. Animal Shelter.

And the students knew all about shelter dogs. Together, they had read “Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog,” a story that illustrates the impact of shelter dogs and how students can help them through reading, said Carmen Puryear, elementary library media specialist at Westport.

Dog with students

“Reading to the dogs gives students a chance to read and not be critiqued or graded,” said Carmen Puryear, elementary library media specialist at Westport. “The students love interacting with the dogs, and that helps them have an overall great feeling about reading.” 

Two dogs, Aurora and Cylindria, sat, wiggled and wagged their tails as students read aloud to them. Students described the pictures of their stories, reading simple phrases and providing practice for the adoptable dogs to remain comfortable and calm around children and groups of people. 

 Dog with students

“Any time we get the dogs out of the shelter and be read to by kids, it’s really mutually beneficial,” said Rob Hardy, who brought the dogs from CARE Animal Rescue. “The dogs love to get out of the shelter and go on a field trip, but it also helps the students engage with shelter dogs. Hopefully, they’ll go home and tell their parents that they met some great dogs who came from CARE.”