Two children read in a cozy blue nook; a black dog sits at their feet, listening attentively. According to recent data from Get Georgia Reading, only 34% of children in the state are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. In addition to future learning barriers, these children are more likely to face other challenges, including disciplinary issues and poor health; they’re also more likely to drop out of high school and spend time in prison. Meghen Bassel, a graduate student in the library media specialist program at the University of West Georgia, has an interesting approach to help children at South Salem elementary school improve their reading skills. His name is Mr. Booker T. Pug.

“Booker offers a nonjudgmental environment for kids to practice reading,” said Bassel. “He’s not going to notice if they said a word incorrectly, missed a word or didn’t attempt a word. He will simply sit and listen.” Students at South Salem visit the media center at least once a week, and their reward for good behavior is time with Mr. Booker, a certified therapy dog.

“We’ve had students who become different children because of him and the program,” Bassel concluded. “They’re no longer afraid of picking up books and reading in front of the class, whereas before they would whisper or pass on the opportunity. They jump at the chance now. It’s amazing to see. One little dog.” To learn more about Meghen and Booker, visit the University of West Georgia website.

Photo Credit: Julia Mothersole