Reading program for children in need of volunteers

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HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. – An organization in Hancock County is asking for help to continue their work helping children learn to read.

As they return to classrooms for the first time since the pandemic began, Bentley’s Buddies is looking for new volunteers.

It is named after founder Nickie Scott’s late dog, with whom she started the program years ago.

Founder Nickie Scott says Bentley was a dog that could command a play and put kids at ease to practice their reading. She says it’s something the community needs and with more dogs they can reach more people.

Dogs in the classroom is something the students at Weston Elementary School were very excited about.

“When I first told them the dogs were going to be here, they were like, are you kidding me, really we’re going to be the class that gets the dogs,” said Jamie Wolski, a second-grade teacher at the Weston Elementary School.

One of the students says it’s a new experience.

“Because I’ve never had dogs in my class before,” sophomore Wyatt Luker said.

Scott says furry friends help give kids the confidence to tackle books that might challenge them.

“Dogs don’t judge them. They don’t laugh at them, they never say they’re wrong, they always comfort them with a soft peck, a slobbery kiss or just a smile on their face,” Scott said.

Their teacher says there are words they might be intimidated to get wrong in front of adults or peers, but the dog’s acceptance encourages them to read and practice more.

“So to have a dog come in to relieve some of that stress and bring that happiness to that kid’s life, even though he doesn’t have a dog at home, that’s just wonderful,” Wolski said. .

Dogs are also able to help with more than just reading. They teach animal care, politeness and build confidence.

“My feelings are all over the place. I often have tears in my eyes like I have today just because it’s so comforting and I know these dogs are making a difference,” Scott said.

Unfortunately, like so many other things, the pandemic has hit the program hard. Now they need more volunteers with well behaved companions to help these students.

“We’ve had people leave us, we’ve had dogs that we’ve had to take out and everything. So I always have to add to my pack, so to speak,” Scott said.

In addition to going to classrooms, they also have private readings. They also organize library tours and other community events.

Anyone interested in learning more about how it works or becoming a volunteer can find the information on its website.

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