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READing Paws basset hound with glasses

Senior Uses Animals to Take Fear Out of Learning to Read

Rose Civitts ’19 is using her Service Scholar project to work with an organization called READing Paws that uses therapy dogs to calm children who may be self-conscious about their reading skills.
“The goal is to promote childhood literacy by allowing poor readers to read aloud to therapy dogs. The dogs are trained to sit quietly and let the children read to them,” Rose explains about the organization. She has assisted the Middle Tennessee chapter in training new teams, organizing reading times at local libraries, and maintaining their social media profiles.

The Service Learning Program helps Ensworth students identify the problems facing our local community. “I did not realize that only 33% of Metro third graders can read at the appropriate level,” Civitts observes.

The Service Learning Program at Ensworth spans all thirteen grades with each class taking on a particular project, starting in Kindergarten with a Habitat for Humanity project. The high school curriculum requires that each Grade 12 student complete a service project. Rose has taken this further by becoming a Service Scholar, which requires completing at least 20 hours of additional service, writing a 2,000-word research paper, and presenting at the Social Issues Conference in the spring semester.

Apart from gaining greater awareness of this social issue, Rose experienced the positive results of her efforts first-hand. “I have seen the students gain more confidence both academically and socially because dogs do not judge, laugh, or criticize,” she says. “Dogs don’t care if a child is good at football, popular, or not the best reader. They don’t discriminate. As a result, the child’s anxiety disappears and a safe learning environment is created.”

Rose is grateful for her 13 years at Ensworth, explaining, “From collecting pennies for Habitat for Humanity to the service learning days in high school, Ensworth has instilled in me a passion for volunteering.”

From left to right: Bella the Labrador mix and Debbie Wilburn, Rose Civitts, Suzanne Jones and Reuben the long-haired Chihuahua, and Debbie Martin and Brother the Basset Hound.

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