SARATOGA SPRINGS — Lynn O’Rourke, the K-2 reading teacher at Lake Avenue School, has been integrating therapy dogs into her curriculum for over 10 years, ending each year with a celebration.
“I actually started it earlier than 10 years ago when I worked at Caroline Street School and then when I went to Lake Ave, I brought it with me, so, it’s just been something that I’ve done every year to congratulate the kids on all of their reading efforts,” O’Rourke explained.
When she first started, after an inquiry many years ago from a student’s parent who had a certified dog she wanted to bring to the classroom, O’Rourke only had the one therapy dog, so she only ran the program once a week. This last school year, at least four to six therapy dogs sat in with the second graders at least four times a week. O’Rourke strives to run the program at the end of every day in her classroom. The reaction has always been extremely positive with the kids. At the end of the year, students are asked to recall their events from the past year and the majority of them always say that reading with the dogs is the best part of second grade.
“Sometimes I’ll reach out to other grade levels because the upper grade level students miss it so much and the younger kids see it happening, so if the second graders can’t do it that day I usually try and tap into one of the other grades,” O’Rourke said.
While O’Rourke and her husband do not have any dogs personally, due to traveling commitments, she loves running the program.
“The kids always want to read with the dogs. They become attached, they see the dogs in the hallway. One of the dogs actually spent the last two weeks in the library so when the kids came to the library, all k-5 students, got to read with the dogs,” she said.