Lending a caring paw: R.E.A.D. provides elementary fun


Rachel Maxwell

Caring Paws utilizes therapy dogs in order to help children across the nation cope with stress. They hold events at schools during finals, airports to help with the stress of travel, libraries to improve reading confidence, and numerous other locations.

Rachel Maxwell, Social media editor

Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), a program that utilizes therapy dogs to help Kindergarten through Fifth grade students with their confidence, public speaking, and reading aloud skills, recently held an event at South Cobb Library. R.E.A.D. works out of libraries and schools nationally, selecting students who struggle with reading out loud. Kids sit with a licensed therapy team (dog and owner) and read books to the tail-wagging listeners. While the dog listens, the dog owners help the children read through the books when they struggle.

Rachel Maxwell
Rosie volunteers with her owner Susie Atcheson for Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.). They work out of local libraries helping children gain confidence when reading aloud.

“R.E.A.D. is a safe space for kids. When the children are with their team, the idea is for the person to disappear, and for the environment to become peaceful so all of the child’s anxiety disappears, and they can just read to the dogs,” R.E.A.D. volunteer Sue Lee said.  

To become a team, the dog must go through a series of tests and must be at least 12 months old. They must learn to lay down, stay calm, and listen. As an example of a test a dog must go through, if the dog walks through a nursing home without becoming excited, along with meeting the other requirements, they qualify for a therapy license.

Along with the dogs needing training, the owners must follow a list of rules as well. They must not let go of the dog’s leash, and if multiple dogs attend an event, they must not interact with each other. Dogs must stay with their owners at all times, including to the bathroom during the event.

Rachel Maxwell
Therapy dogs support people and provide help in different ways. Whether a stressful situations, gaining confidence, or just when you need a friend by your side, these dogs know how to help.

R.E.A.D. volunteer Susie Atcheson and her two therapy dogs Roise and Colbear work as volunteers with R.E.A.D. In the past, her older dog Colbear worked with people at nursing homes, airports, therapy centers, and hospitals.

Caring Paws, the group who organizes the therapy events, sends out emails to therapy teams who belong to their organization of different schools, libraries, and other places that want a visit from the dogs. The teams who find interest in attending the events sign up to attend with their dogs.

“I love this program, I love working with the kids and seeing their faces light up when they are with the animals,” Atcheson said.