East Street School's Lucky Penny
Posted On:
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Penny & Mrs. Murphy
Penny & Mrs. Murphy

Each Friday afternoon since the beginning of May, Penny, a two year old English Springer Spaniel and certified therapy dog, has been spending time with her reading buddies in the library at East Street School.  As Marlie, Elina, Marlo, and Juliana arrive to the library to read to their four-legged friend, it is clear to see that  Penny  has wagged her tail right into the hearts of these four 1st graders.

Penny’s journey to becoming a certified therapy dog started when Jennifer Murphy, LPS Physical Therapist and Penny’s proud owner, decided to enroll Penny in the therapy dog certification program at Bright Spot Therapy Dogs.  Murphy shared that once she made the decision to pursue the certification with Penny she also set a goal to start a reading buddy program at East Street School. “I am grateful that my colleagues were so supportive of the idea to start this program at East Street,” said Murphy.

The program is being piloted in a 1st grade classroom.“Having Penny to read to has had such a positive effect on the students that participate,” commented 1st grade teacher, Donna Queiros. “They are able to read to Penny with no judgement, just pure confidence.  Their anxiety and stress levels are lifted and their empathy improved.”

Queiros also believes the experience boosted the student’s self esteem and motivated them to be better readers.  “The children are very excited when Friday arrives each week for their Penny visit. The engagement the children have with Penny is beyond words.”

Kate Marciano, East Street Librarian, hand picks a variety of books each week with a dog/pet theme for the students to select, such as Boy, Bird and Dog, by David McPhail and Biscuit Finds a Friend, by Alyssa Capucilli. “I am delighted to offer our library as a space for Penny and our young readers to connect. Enthusiasm is, in my opinion, the key benefit of this program,” shared Marciano. “Students are so excited to be able to snuggle with, and read stories to Penny. Anything we can do to foster enthusiasm and excitement around books and reading is a good thing!”

Penny’s reading buddies were all in agreement that time spent with their four legged, furry reading friend the perfect way to end their school week.   “I like reading to Penny because we also get to play with her when we’re done reading,” commented Marlie Fuentes.

“I like to give her the treats when I’m done reading,” said Elina Wright, “cause when she licks me it tickles my hand.” Milo Hnatow added, “Giving the treats to Penny at the end is fun. She even does tricks sometimes.”

“The best part is petting Penny,” said Juliana Claudio with a huge smile. “She’s very soft, furry and fun!”

Thomas Welch, East Street Principal, shared that offering such a program has had a multitude of benefits. “Penny relaxes our students and allows them to be themselves. They enjoy reading to Penny because they become the adult, and the dog the student. This dynamic gives them more confidence when they read aloud.”

“Penny loves children so this is a fun way to give back to the school community and support the work the teachers are doing in the classroom,” shared Murphy. “It has been a very enjoyable experience;  both Penny and I look forward to continuing it next year."





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