Literacy & Leashes

ETSD Therapy Dog Program

Evesham Township School District
 implements a therapy dog program called Literacy and Leashes at each of the elementary schools. Each school has their very own dog and handler assigned to the building who works directly with the second grade students during their reading time. The district partners with Benny at Beeler, Isaac at DES, Valerie at Jaggard, Rumor at MES, Max at Rice, and Libby at Van Zant. The goal of this program is to build confidence and strengthen literacy skills in our students with these very special reading companions. All dogs used in the program are registered therapy dogs with volunteer handlers that have been approved through the ETSD as per board policy.

The program typically begins annually in late September/October and lasts the duration of the school year. School and classroom expectations are part of the district’s second grade Health and RC Connections Curriculum. The trained handlers and their dog are volunteers and are in the schools approximately one hour per week. They rotate through each of the second grade classrooms so that students can expect a visit from the school’s assigned therapy dog a minimum of once a month. 

In addition to working with second graders, the therapy dogs can work with specialized classrooms, visit the wellness room at each school, and are utilized in various settings with the school counselor to help bring comfort or support to students with an identified need. The therapy dogs are also invited to attend designated district and school-level events such as District Wellness Night in March and Summer Literacy Events at each of the schools. A whole school meeting is typically held annually at each school in the fall to review behavior expectations with all staff and students within the building. This whole school meeting is led by the second grade students and aims to provide the entire school community an opportunity to connect with the building's handler and therapy dog.

Middle School Program

The program was extended to middle school in the 2019-2020 school year.  Alma and Dixie now annually work with middle school students in designated classrooms, whether reading or working on a project. The dogs can also be utilized on an as needed basis by school counselors. In a typical year, opportunities are extended to all middle school students in each of the library-media centers on a monthly basis for an alternate recess option.

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