October 10, 2018
For one longtime fundholder at the Community Foundation, a charitable bequest was the perfect way to continue her legacy of care and concern for animals. The Community Foundation now administers the Great Companions Fund – an endowed fund established through a bequest in the fundholder’s will – and ensures that the dollars are put toward the most effective programs in line with the fundholder’s intent: to care for and work with companion animals and wildlife across New Jersey.
One of the Great Companions Fund’s recent grants went to support the Creature Comfort Pet Therapy’s reading program. As part of this program, second and third grade students at Chester M. Stephens Elementary School in Morris Plains read several books about dogs and then had two dogs, Smokey and Tippi, join them in the classroom.
While the students interacted with the lovable dogs, Lynn Livingston and Lenore MacKenzie, the dogs’ respective owners, spoke with the students about therapy dog training and the ways that therapy dogs can help people. The students also learned some of the breeds that make the best therapy dogs.
The visit, however, wasn’t just a book coming to life. Research shows that students who read aloud to therapy dogs improve their language arts skills. Children who may feel self-conscious while reading to their classmates are comfortable reading to the dogs who provide a neutral and non-judgmental audience. It’s a way for students to practice their reading, feel safe making mistakes, and start to become more confident readers.
When students read to dogs, their attitude and enthusiasm for reading has been shown to increase as well. Smokey, a mini-schnauzer, and Tippi, a golden retriever, will visit every other week for the remainder of the school year and be the good listeners they naturally are.
As a close friend of the fundholder pointed out, “This person’s great passion was always animals. Truly, the donor had a magic touch with them and thankfully, the Community Foundation’s efforts will continue this good work.”