HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. — A Hancock County organization is asking for help to continue their work helping kids learn to read.
As they are making their way back into the classrooms for the first time since the pandemic started, Bentley’s Buddies is looking for new volunteers.
It’s named after the founder Nickie Scott’s late dog, who she started the program with years ago.
Founder Nickie Scott says Bentley was a dog who could command a room and also put kids at ease to practice their reading. She says it’s something there’s a need for in the community, and with more dogs they can reach more people.
Dogs in the classroom are something students at Weston Elementary School were very excited about.
“When I first told them the dogs were going to be here, they were like you gotta be kidding me, really we’re going to be the classroom that gets the dogs,” said Weston Elementary School second grade teacher Jamie Wolski.
One of the students says it’s a new experience.
“Because I never had dogs in my classroom before,” said second grade student Wyatt Luker.
Scott says the furry friends help give kids the confidence to tackle books that might challenge them.
“The dogs don’t judge them. They don’t make fun of them, they don’t ever say they’re wrong, they always just comfort them with a gentle paw, a slobbery kiss, or just a smile on their face,” said Scott.
Their teacher says there are some 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 to come in and relieve some of that stress and bring that happiness to that child’s life, even if they don’t have a dog at home is just wonderful,” said Wolski.
The dogs are also able to help with more than just reading. They teach pet care, being polite and boost confidence.
“My feelings are all over the place. I often have tears in my eyes like I have today just because it’s so heartwarming and I know these dogs are making a difference,” said Scott.
Unfortunately, like so many other things, the pandemic hit the program hard. Now, they are in need of more volunteers with well-behaved companions to help these students.
“We had people leave us, we’ve had dogs we had to retire and stuff. So, I am always needing to add to my pack, so to speak,” Scott said.
In addition to going into classrooms, they also have private reads. They also do library visits and other community events.
Anyone interested in learning more about how they work or becoming a volunteer can find the information on their website.