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Pup Stars: How a Cleveland school program connects students with dogs to enhance reading skills

Young readers bring story time to Cleveland kennels to four-legged listeners awaiting their forever homes.

CLEVELAND — This is a story about pups and the power of reading with young readers sharing tales with an audience that's eager to sit and stay for the next chapter. 

Once a month during the school year, members of Pup Star Readers Club walk from Marion C. Seltzer Elementary School to City Dogs Cleveland Kennel, where their audience awaits. 

"It's a really big deal to be in Pup Stars," said Lisa Swet, who started the program and is an ESL teacher at the Cleveland school. 

Being in Pup Stars is a privilege and the students all meet the requirements to be a part of this special club. For many of them, English is their second language. Reading aloud is an important part of their progress.

"I read Three Little Pigs and Snow White," said a young student named Jedsael.

The dogs get excited when their visitors arrive, and who can blame them? But soon, the barking dies down and they settle in for 30 minutes of story time. 

"I read to Felix, he likes it a lot, and he's a puppy, too. Well, not a puppy but he is little," Jedsael said enthusiastically. 

Credit: City Dogs
Bijou, who was adopted from City Dogs, spends time with students after they are done reading.

"The dogs don't care if you say a word wrong. It brings a joy to learning outside of our classroom. It makes the students feel a part of the community and it also lets the dogs have a little enrichment and some visitors," said Lisa Swet, who is also a volunteer at City Dogs, too. 

The students' confidence in their reading soars, thanks to a tail-wagging audience. But that's not the only purpose of Pup Stars. Their time at City Dogs helps them think of the world outside school walls. 

"This is in our community. It's a great way to learn about dogs, to promote City Dogs and to let people know that there are dogs here who would be great members of their families," Swet added. 

As these dogs await their forever homes, it turns out they have something special to give, too. 

Credit: City Dogs
The students visit City Dogs every month during the school year, in which they spend about 30 minutes reading to the dogs

"It's really making an impact on kids long term, so hopefully they will grow up to be great ambassadors of City Dogs," said Swet.

If you are looking for a reading companion, there are plenty of pups at City Dog who love a good book. The kennels are full, so adoptions at City Dogs are 1/2 price through the rest of May. 

Check out available City Dogs HERE.

To Follow City Dogs on Facebook head HERE.


Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous pets story on May 11, 2022.

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