Manitoba

See Spot read: unique program helps young kids to love books

Dogs have long been considered a human's best friend, and now they're helping kids learn to read better.

Dogs have long been considered a human's best friend, and now they're helping kids learn to read better.

A program unique in Canada is pairing elementary school kids with therapy dogs from St. John's Ambulance and bringing them all together at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

It's called See Spot Read.

"The dogs love it. It's an opportunity for them to be around children, and it's an opportunity for the children to be reading to a non-judgmental [being]," said Darcy Manness of the Winnipeg Humane Society. "They're not going to be nagged by someone saying, 'That is a wrong word.'"

The therapy dogs normally visit nursing homes and hospitals. Now they're lending an ear to kids once a week for 20 minutes.

The sessions between the kids and dogs last eight weeks, but in that short time, the readers develop remarkably, said Manness. Organizers have see first-hand how much the pairing helps a shy reader improve.

"One young boy … was able to increase a full grade level," said Manness. "That might not have happened in a resource program, so the school is very pleased with the result."

The program began in the United States about two years ago, but the one in Winnipeg is the first of its kind in Canada, said Manness.

If organizers at the Winnipeg Humane Society can find enough money, they're going to make the program permanent.

They need about $30,000 a year and a permanent funding source to keep it going. Otherwise, the program will end next week.