(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)- Pickett Elementary School Fourth Grader Olivia Hibe has been nervous to read to others since she was a little girl. But lately that confidence has grown thanks to her buddy, Woody the poodle.
"He encourages me to read and to be able to read to other people."
Woody and his best friend, Smudge, are just a few from the Book buddies program. The program invites reading dogs from the Pony Express therapy dogs group to come to area schools to work with third through sixth graders who are struggling to read.
"I think it's such a wonderful program. It's 100% free based on volunteers so it costs nothing to the school and the students to be a part of it," said Pickett Elementary Librarian Stephanie Grable. "They work on these reading skills. They get to snuggle up and read to a dog. Kids are open to read to animals than to people. They don't judge these children. It's a real big confidence booster."
In Grable's experience of using the program, it has proved to be very successful.
"It really translates into the classroom and increases their reading skill and it leads to higher test scores," Grabel said. "I check in with the teachers with their reading scores throughout the year. We can see boosts of up to 250 points per student."
For that, kids like Hibe are thankful for these fury friends for just sitting or laying down and listening.
"Thank you. He helped me have someone to read to."
The book buddies program visits Pickett Elementary School in St. Joseph twice a month throughout the school year. If you're interested in bringing the program to your area school, you can call (816) 223-3690.