About Paws to R.E.A.D.®


Paws to R.E.A.D. is the Reading Education Assistance Dog® program managed by Sprite’s HERO, Inc.


This… is Paws to R.E.A.D.!

Amy Lacey, WRIC-TV anchor, visited with elementary school readers in May 2017!

“This program works. And it’s not just about reading. I watched these kids come out of their shell, gain confidence, and grow their self esteem. Dogs are masters at unconditional love. They accept the children exactly as they are – no strings attached. And when a child senses that, their fears drop away, doors open, and forward momentum is natural. It’s a beautiful thing to watch and I hope this book shares some of that magic.”

Lisa Papp, author of Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Why Paws to R.E.A.D.?

Each year, nearly 3000 third graders across Richmond FAIL the Reading SOL test. The Paws to R.E.A.D. program provides volunteer Reading Education Assistance Dog® teams to schools, libraries and community facilities throughout greater Richmond to help lower that number.  Our nonjudgmental canine listeners and their handlers as literacy mentors replace reading frustration with confidence, motivation, and fun – supporting children one-on-one to enrich and enhance their reading skills as well as their love of dogs and a good book!

How does the program work?

Paws to R.E.A.D. volunteers and their trained therapy dogs visit elementary schools, public libraries and other facilities to provide one-on-one tutoring to children not currently reading at grade level. The nonjudgmental nature of the dogs and the power of the human-animal bond lowers the stress of the reading process and allows the children to both enjoy reading and improve their reading skill.

In the R.E.A.D. setting, therapy dogs act as catalysts, allowing the child to feel more comfortable and focus more on the task at hand. The owner/handlers are facilitators, interpreting their dog’s reactions to the stories they are listening to.

Why dogs? 

Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:

  •    Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
  •    Listen attentively
  •    Do not judge, laugh, or criticize
  •    Allow children to proceed at their own pace
  •    Are less intimidating than peers

When a R.E.A.D. dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs. The handler is a skilled facilitator, too – shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the supervised reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material, and gain fluency as a reader.

Where do we visit?

Paws to R.E.A.D. currently has 41 volunteer teams visiting 14 elementary schools in Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Hopewell, Powhatan and Richmond.  We also have 19 monthly visits to 13 public libraries in Chesterfield, Henrico, New Kent, Pamunkey, and Richmond. The Better Housing Coalition also have a team visiting the Lincoln Mews community center after-school program twice a month.


Our Impact..

“One of the children we read with this year, a boy on the autism spectrum, read with us not because he lacked reading skills but because he refused to read anything in the classroom, including quizzes and tests. He always read whe with us, sometimes willingly, sometimes grumpily and mumbling. He always tried to avoid physical contact with Carolina. I made every effort to keep her from leaning on him or touching him and often wondered if another child would be a better fit for the program. On our last reading date, the child was animated and chatty, very excited about the party scheduled for the next week. I shared this with Suzanne and she was stunned.  At the party, Carolina was hanging out by his chair. I said something to him about how much she likes him. To my amazement, he reached out his hand and petted her!”

National R.E.A.D. program affiliation

The Sprite’s Hero Paws to R.E.A.D. program is affiliated with and uses the volunteer training materials created by Intermountain Therapy Animals. Learn more about their history, training and research.

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