York Avenue Elementary School proudly welcomed a special furry guest as part of an innovative project that focuses on improving reading and social skills by incorporating reading therapy dogs. The program, spearheaded by ESL teacher Stephanie Levitt, began in the 2016-17 school year through a partnership with Therapy Dogs International and Alliance of Therapy Dogs, who brought volunteers with their trained therapy dogs to the school. The program started with the first grade and has expanded to include students in grades K-3,” explained Mrs. Levitt. Once a week, students reading to a dog practice their reading skills in a nonjudgmental setting. “Building self-esteem and associating reading with something pleasant are just some of the benefits of reading to therapy dogs,” Mrs. Levitt said. “Even children who have a fear of dogs have the opportunity to interact with them if they choose to, which helps give the children a better understanding of dogs.”