Read therapy dogs help kids gain confidence in school

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By: Erin Lisch | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 27, 2017

ST. MARKS, Fla. (WCTV) -- Inside a classroom at Wakulla’s C.O.A.S.T. charter school, you'll hear 9-year-old Alexandria Mackie reading aloud.

But, reading wasn’t always easy for Alexandria. She said, "I wasn't the best. I had to read Pre-K books because I was that bad."

Her mother, Mackie, said Alexandria didn’t have confidence when she read. “She would stop reading, and say 'I can't do it' after five minutes."

Now, reading for Alexandria is a breeze; all from the help of read therapy dogs like Starla.

When asked about reading to Starla, Alexandria said, "Whenever I would read she would get all excited and listen and it was very nice!"

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is head of the R.E.A.D - Reading Education Assistance Dogs - program, connecting kids with dogs, and cats.

Stephanie Perkins, Director of Animal Therapy at TMH said, "It shows it really helps the kids read and helps them relax and be more focused on what they're reading."

School officials added it's making a major impact on learning.

Principal of C.O.A.S.T., Alyssa Higgins said, "They take A.R. tests on the books they read, and the books they'd read to the dogs. They were able to pass those tests almost every time."

With tears in her eyes, Alexandria's mom said, "She got an inner strength in her that came out fully when she would read to the dogs."

"It's actually very comfortable now that I read good now, it's not that bad now," said Alexandria.

With Starla right by her side, allowing Alexandria to blossom into an avid reader.

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