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Paws for Print Event Held at Bradley Beach Elementary

The International Reading Association (IRA) hosted their first annual Paws for Print at Bradley Beach Elementary school on Tuesday, April 14.

“The event was definitely successful as it was well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by the children,” Rachel Fox, president of IRA said.

Fox said the event was inspired by a study that discovered children increase their literacy skills and their confidence when reading out loud to animals.

IRA began planning their first ever Paws for Print this past January and with the help of their advisors, Dr. Lily Steiner and Dr. Kerry Rizzuto, they were able to secure a visit to Bradley Beach Elementary School.

Twenty-five students from two third grade classes participated in the event as well as five dogs, five SPCA volunteers, and ten IRA members.

The day began with Fox and IRA’s vice president, Mariola Cieloch, explaining to the group of third graders why literacy is so important. They then presented the various studies that explain how reading to animals improves literacy as well as other aspects of one’s character.

Once the presentation concluded, the students were split into five groups, each with their own dog and SPCA volunteer. IRA members also were divided into separate groups in order to facilitate the event and to see if the children reacted to the dogs’ presence.

Although the goal was to improve the children’s literacy skills and confidence, Dr. Rizzuto observed another asset. “By welcoming the volunteers from the Monmouth County SPCA into their classrooms, the third grade teachers demonstrated how schools and communities can create partnerships, which result in powerful social and academic dividends for their students.” 

Fox explained that the SPCA volunteers as well as the dogs are very familiar with this reading situation.

“The SPCA goes to Bradley Beach library once a month and brings the dogs in their care with them. They also have children read to the dogs, but it was very nice to have it in a classroom setting. I feel like having children read to dogs in a classroom is not something you would usually hear of which made the students even more excited to participate,” Fox said.  

Each group was given the same book to read and, in fitting fashion, the book which was selected was Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.

After the hour visit concluded, the IRA members and SPCA volunteers left Bradley Beach Elementary School holding their heads high. 

“Watching our MU students interact with the the third grade children, and the children interact with the dogs was very exciting. Children who may have been reluctant readers showed so much enthusiasm, and programs like this can hold great promise, particularly for our striving readers,” Steiner said.

“My favorite part was seeing the excitement on the students’ faces when they were given the opportunity to practice their literacy skills to the dogs. The emotional connection the students made during the event truly inspired me to provide amazing opportunities to others,” said Cieloch

Fox was also pleased that all of the hard work translated to a successful day for all members involved. “We did the event to extend our knowledge, passion, and presence in the community and we could not have asked for a better end result,” Fox said. “We are already planning to run the program again next year because we had such good feedback.”