These Pups Are Well-Read
For children with reading challenges, it can help to read to a nonjudgmental audience: canines. The Alden Place Elementary PTO in Millbrook, N.Y., brings certified dogs to the school library each week. Students selected by teachers get 20 minutes to sit and read to a dog. Studies have shown that programs like this boost a child’s reading proficiency, and PTO president Kellen Lehmkuhl says she has seen it in action. “With a dog, there is no embarrassment and the children feel comfortable reading,” she says.

Caring for Canines
At the Ravinia School in Highland Park, Ill., the PTO has run a variety of community service programs focused on helping local shelters and animals in need. The group worked with 5th graders recently to run a collection of blankets, newspapers, and other essentials to support two local shelters. Also, as part of a school volunteer day, the PTO worked with students to make dog toys for shelter animals. “Animals are near and dear to kids,” says president Leslie Alter. “It is very accessible for kids to understand that animals need help.”

The Farm Comes for a Visit
Each year, owners of a local farm bring animals to visit the Keith Bovenschen School in Warren, Mich., a school for special-needs students ages 3 to 26. On a more casual basis, the PTO occasionally brings baby farm animals to spend time with students. (A PTO member owns a farm.) PTO president Melanie Pearson notes that it is difficult for many of the students to travel to local farms. With these visits, students can connect with the baby animals by holding them, feeding them, and giving them love, she says. “There is something very calming about the animals,” she adds. “The animals respond to the children and soothe them.”