RICHMOND, Va. -- It's reading time in Ms. Jessica Blumberg's kindergarten class at Fox Elementary School in Richmond. The kids use a pointer to follow along with the words, but it's a black lab named Duke who's leading them to better grades.
"Dogs are very soothing and very relaxing and they don't judge," Blumberg said. “If you make a mistake, it's like you can move on and you're not embarrassed."
Blumberg had the idea to bring a dog to class two years ago. Then, she invited a friend to bring her dog named Jax.
The kids started reading to the Jax, and Blumberg started to see improvement right away.
"Oh my gosh! So much improvement! My kids went up in their scores and their reading. and it's also affected their writing," she said.
That story prompted the Richmond SPCA to develop a program pairing carefully-screened dogs and their guardians with more Fox Elementary classrooms.
"The kids just love dogs," Duke’s owner Ed Starr said. “They don't feel self-conscious and they want to please the dog.”
Paws 4 Reading has six pilot classrooms at Fox.
The school is hoping to have a dog and volunteer in each classroom for next year.