NEW CASTLE, Del. — Teddy didn’t care if the children reading to him mispronounced a word, or mistakenly skipped a page.
He seemed to care more that he was occasionally petted and stroked and that a treat appeared at the end of the story.
Teddy, a German shepherd and beagle mix, works as a therapy dog with PAWS for People, a nonprofit that connects adults and children with pets for a variety of reasons, including health or education.
Both Teddy and another dog, Jasmine, a goldendoodle, were at Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary School in New Castle to serve as “reading dogs.”
The PAWS for Reading program sends dogs and their owners into more than 35 schools in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to hear children read stories. Students are selected to take part in the program for a variety of reasons — a reward, extra time focused on reading or to familiarize a child with animals.
Stephanie Barry, director of PAWS for Reading, said “a dog is a nonjudgmental listener who will not care if the child makes mistakes.”
Eisenberg began the program in 2010, with Cassie Rogin, an English as a second language teacher, coordinating the effort.
Rogin said about 20 students participate in the program each year — about 10 students in each of two four-month long sessions.
The dogs usually visit twice a month, and each student reads for about 10 minutes, Rogin said.
Barry said in addition to the reading program, PAWS coordinates therapy programs at hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and also has programs working with autistic children. She said there are more than 300 therapy teams of pets and owners within PAWS, and each undergoes at least 14 hours of training before they begin visits.