SARATOGA SPRINGS — Lake Avenue Elementary School held its 12th annual Reader’s Celebration with therapy dogs on Friday, allowing second-grade students the opportunity to practice their reading skills with some canine friends.
Lynn O’Rourke, Lake Ave’s K-2 reading teacher, had been offering a dog therapy program to second-grade students for over 20 years before it was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program returned this year, with O’Rourke saying students enjoy the experience.
On Friday, students sat outside in groups and discussed their books with two therapy dogs. One of the dogs was Luna, brought along by former Lake Ave librarian Kali Nagler, who said she began participating in the program as a way to continue working with children.
“I missed working with kids,” said Nagler. “Having a therapy dog gives me a good excuse to come and visit, or go to Skidmore … She’s got a perfect temperament for it, so it just seemed like a perfect thing to do, to share her with others.”
Nagler said it is “really rewarding” to be a part of the program.
“There’s nothing but pure joy in doing something like this,” Nagler said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something good. I had to take vacation time to come here today to do this, but that’s how much I love doing it.”
O’Rourke’s class saw four dogs throughout the year, and hopes to have six next year. She said that several classes who did not have the opportunity to participate in the program during the pandemic were invited to do so at various points this year.
O’Rourke said that the Reader’s Celebration is ultimately a positive program that helps kids grow their confidence and reading abilities.