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Reader’s Best Friend
Canine companions make good listeners in the Elementary School
A reader’s best friend participant with poodle Sara.
The Grade 5 Exhibition is not supposed to end when displays are folded up and taken home. To the contrary, every student is tasked with taking what she/ he has learned and applying that knowledge in the real world. Current Grade 6 student Enya Crowley took that challenge seriously and has taken what she learned last year to create something impactful at FIS. In October of 2016, Enya led the launch of the Reader’s Best Friend program in the Elementary School.
The Reader’s Best Friend program pairs appropriate dogs with young readers. According to Enya, whose exhibition topic was “How Pets A ect People,”“children who have di culties with reading or are just learning to read (in English) can improve their reading by reading to a well- behaved dog.” Currently there are seven dogs working with over 50 students chosen by homeroom teachers.
The idea of having dogs work with students can appear obvious and easily executed, but it is not. Enya began with a petition during her Grade 5 Exhibition evening and secured 59 signatures (37 students, 12 teachers and 10 parents) to demonstrate her belief in the program and support from the community. She took these petitions to the Elementary School’s Assistant Principal, Dawn Darling,
10 FIS World May 2017
and earned her support. Ms. Darling was instrumental in helping Enya bring her idea to fruition and said, “The bene ts of therapy dogs have been well documented.”
According to Ms. Darling, appropriate dogs are calm, mild mannered and in no way threatening. “We have a rigorous screening program and these dogs are on campus to work with students in a speci c capacity,” she said.
Not every dog is cut out to be a therapy dog, however. For example, Enya’s own dog, Mia, has a skittish disposition that makes her better suited to playing in the forest with her master, Enya’s father, Steve Crowley, a retired Grade 5 teacher.
The rigorous screening process was not left to dog owners, Enya or Ms. Darling. The school hired Gerold Günther, a Frankfurt Police O cer specializing in dog training, to assess and certify the dogs. Mr. Günther, who spent approximately 45 minutes with each dog, said, “The test assesses if the dog behaves in a reasonable way in a school setting. Dogs should convey warmth, cheerfulness and motivation.” Each of the chosen canine friends has a certi cate in Ms. Darling’s o ce.

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