Story Time with a Nonjudgemental Furry Friend

TALES BLOG /Story Time with a Furry Friend

Did you know that according to The Brookings Institution, students already face a 30% loss in reading skills because of the Spring COVID-19 school interruption? Studies have also found that low income students and students receiving low-quality online learning are the ones who will experience the heaviest setbacks. 

These statistics are alarming, which is exactly why Hand in Paw Therapy Teams have quickly pivoted and adapted our Sit, Stay, Read! program for virtual learning!  During virtual Sit, Stay, Read! visits, struggling students read aloud, on a weekly basis, to nonjudgmental furry friends and their caring handlers via Zoom or Google Meet. 

Melissa Summers is an English Language teacher who knows the benefits of Animal-Assisted Education and has incorporated HIP in her classroom for many years:

"My students have always looked forward to their visits with our faithful Hand in Paw teams. Since all of my students speak another language in addition to English, the conversation and reading practice is invaluable to their language development. This year, I was so glad to hear that we could continue seeing the Hand in Paw teams virtually. The visits give the students something exciting to look forward to, and provide a sense of normalcy. In this ever-changing world, the students know they can count on a smile and some encouraging words from their Hand in Paw teams."

Teachers are not the only ones who see the benefits first-hand! Lusia MacPherson, HIP Therapy Team with her dog Mooc, sees how reading to a dog boosts literacy skills:

"Reading to a nonjudgemental animal provides an opportunity for children to practice reading in a non-stressful environment. Each week we’ve seen the children in Ms. Summers class get excited to see their friend MOOC come into their classroom virtually. They wave “hello,” show him the pictures in the book when they are reading to him, and tell him what they liked best about the story. Sometimes students may feel anxious about reading out-loud in a language they are not familiar with, but when they read to MOOC, that anxiety seems to melt away.  The continuing practice they get reading to MOOC during our virtual visits will undoubtedly have a positive impact on their reading proficiency."

Hand in Paw Therapy Teams are currently providing virtual Sit, Stay, Read! visits to struggling readers at Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama, Girls Inc., Greystone Elementary, South Shades Crest Elementary, and the YWCA.

If you would like to support this program and help Hand in Paw reach more students in need, please consider donating to Hand in Paw this Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving on December 1st!


Donate today at


Early success in reading translates into a lifelong love of learning!