Dozer the Dog Helps Aspiring Readers in Coeur d’Alene Schools
Elementary school students enjoy some classroom visitors more than others. When Dozer the Reading Dog comes to class though, the eyes of students at several Coeur d’Alene schools get very bright and the anticipation level rises dramatically. Accompanied by his “mom”, Loretta White, Dozer cuddles up with the kids for a fun exercise in reading and learning.
“It’s important because a dog doesn’t judge,” says White, who came to Idaho after teaching special education for 47 years in five states. “We take turns reading, and about half the time I read to the kids and about half the time they read to the group.”
Dozer is a nine-year-old English Beagle, who is certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. He has been visiting classrooms for about seven years, and has also taken his canine cause to pediatric medical facilities, malls and other locations. He even has a wardrobe full of outfits, such as a Santa costume and a tutu.
When she moved from California to Idaho, White sought out opportunities to continue her work with Dozer for the benefit of children in the area. She connected with IEA member James Curb, the grants coordinator for the Coeur d’Alene School District, who immediately saw how Loretta and Dozer could compliment the wrap-around and public service programs already in place. The district had started a “Wake Up and Read” program more than a decade earlier, and Curb saw how Dozer the Reading Dog could fit right in.
“Using animals in this kind of setting really has a therapeutic element,” Curb says. “It allows for hands-on, experiential learning opportunities and restores an inherent joy of learning.”
Dozer (accompanied by Loretta, of course) visits a handful of different elementary schools, including before-school stops at Borah Elementary and Fernan Elementary. As part of the program, one lucky student each day gets to take a book home with them. White also utilized Dozer at a reservation school in Plummer, with very positive results.
The Wake Up and Read program is just one of several initiatives designed to promote learning and assist students in Coeur d’Alene before and after school, as well as over the summer. For more information, contact James Curb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Longtime IEA/CEA member Mary Ruch also serves the district as an outreach coordinator specializing in homeless support.