Monday morning meant the start of Read Across America Week activities at Griebling School. For the first graders in the building, that meant a visit from 11 dogs with the Furry Angels Therapy Dog Group.
The four legged friends were there for more than just to be admired and petted, they were also there as a teaching tool for some of the school's youngest readers. When Sharon Gaboff brought the dogs in the children were excited right away at the chance to see dogs of all shapes and sizes in their gymnasium.
That excitement was multiplied several times as they got the chance to break into small groups and read to their special guests while petting them and having their faces licked. Gaboff said it is the smiles on the faces of the children and the excitement that they have in reading that makes bringing the dogs to the students worthwhile
Danielle Vietoris, the vice principal at the school said having the dogs makes for a special experience. "We thought we'd have the therapy dogs visit and give the first grade students an opportunity to read to them and visit with the dogs and just kind of learn how therapy dogs help people in the community," she said.
Even before they got the assembly Vietoris said the students were excited to be part of the program. "We thought it would be an exciting opportunity to really showcase their reading skills at this point in the year," she said.
First grade teacher Lisa Parshelunis called it a "wonderful," activity for her students. "They love to read so now not only do they get to share with the dogs their love for reading and how well they're doing in first grade with their reading."
During the school year Parshelunis said the students read to each other as well as buddies in the upper levels of the school. Those lessons as well as the individual reading are all celebrated during this week devoted to reading. Having the dogs just adds another level to their skills. "I think they're more relaxed because nobody's going to correct them and if they make a mistake it's okay."
It was not only the students who were excited to see their guests. Parshelunis said her and her colleagues were also looking forward to the day. "I couldn't sleep last night," she said. "I'm such a dog lover so it was a great opportunity for the kids to get that love of animals through me and then read to the dogs."
Gaboff said the dogs not only go to schools but also hospitals and nursing homes to brighten their days. The Furry Angels are part of a larger group known as the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc.
With dogs ranging in size from 10 pounds to 200 pounds she said there is a friend for any dog lover they might encounter during one of their visits. Those dogs are also well trained going through at least six weeks of lessons before interacting with the public.
For more information check out their website or call Gaboff at 732-462-5184.