Gabriel’s Angels installs dogs in Arizona classrooms strengthening young readers

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Gabriel’s Angels, an Arizona nonprofit organization delivering healing pet therapy to at-risk children, has announced an innovative program expansion titled Animals, Books and Children — or ABC.

ABC utilizes animal-assisted reading activities to both increase literacy competencies, and work to improve the core behaviors of attachment, affiliation, confidence, empathy, respect, self-regulation and tolerance that Gabriel’s Angels focus on, according to a press release.

The ABC program will service schools that serve at-risk children and provide literacy testing. School staff will identify children that would most benefit from individual reading practice in a safe and non-judgment environment. Pet therapy teams will visit the school weekly, seeing children individually during a one-hour session that focuses on improving reading skills, comprehension and speed, and social behaviors.

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The program will be 12-16 weeks, where during each session the individual child will have time to feel comfortable, work directly on reading skills, and engage in a fun behavioral development activities. Each series concludes with a celebration and certificate ceremony.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development reports that nearly 40 percent of at-risk fourth graders read below basic levels, the press release stated. For children, reading difficulties leads to social and emotional problems, including despair, difficulties with attachment, depression and anxiety.

By incorporating activities designed to improve the seven core behaviors, the ABC program can directly address these issues while also improving the child’s reading skills, the press release stated.

In a study by University of California-Davis, young readers who read out loud to dogs were found to have improved their reading skills by 12 percent over the course of a 10-week program, while children in the same program without a canine companion showed no improvement.

For more information call 602-266-0875 or visit www.GabrielsAngels.org.

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