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Education: A Reader's Best Friend

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Newsweek

Dec. 11, 2006 issue - A month ago, 8-year-old Connor Schultz could read 45 words a minute. Today he's up to 93. The reason? A 4-year-old longhaired dachshund named Ruby who, once a week, visits Connor's school in Schenectady, N.Y., and sits with him while he reads aloud. She doesn't judge or correct him, and Connor has an audience he feels comfortable reading to.

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Ruby is one of 16,000 certified therapy dogs participating in reading-assistance programs at schools and libraries across the country, as educators have begun tapping into the calming effect dogs have on us. "He curls up with [the kids] and they read him a story," says Louisville, Ky., instructor Mary Roberts of a Welsh corgi named Zoom, who is calming worried readers at New Castle Elementary. "You can just see their anxiety disappear."

As word spreads and test scores improve, requests for visits from therapy dogs have been pouring in. "We get calls every day," says Ursula Kemp, president of New Jersey's Therapy Dogs International. Utah-based Intermountain Therapy Animals has close to 1,300 dogs registered in its reading-assistance program, now in 48 states and Canada. That calls for a treat!

—Matthew Philips

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