Reading To Cute Hansel, a Dachshund

Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird tells his daughter the following, “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you`ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” And if one extrapolates further, one might say that the “single trick” is exactly the way to teach empathy. Under Dr. Petersen’s leadership, NAMS-N initiated the reading-to-a-dog program during the 2012-2013 school year with a goal of teaching/reinforcing empathy skills to our students. Each Tuesday, for one hour, two students are chosen to read to Hansel, the cutest little Dachshund in the city! Students are seated next to Hansel and interact with him while reading empathy-building stories such as those from Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation by Lynn Cuny. The stories are meant to not only encourage empathy building but also to reinforce social skills. Hansel’s human companion, Priscilla Williams, is a retired social worker who exudes patience and kindness. In the course of the hour we emphasize the Pillars of Caring and Responsibility, the need to be a good caregiver (because if one is a good caregiver to animals then it is hoped that our lads and lasses will become good caregivers to people), and that animal companions are a healthy way to de-stress. So what is the relationship between reading, listening and empathy? Well, Audrey McLaughlin said it best, “When you listen, it's amazing what you can learn. When you act on what you've learned, it's amazing what you can change.”

-Ms. K, Special Education Teacher