Yellow lab named Gus helps students with reading

Yellow lab named Gus helps students with reading

On the last day of school Thursday, Fox Prairie Elementary School’s most popular staff member was busier than ever.

“There are mornings I walk in when kids are chanting his name like he’s a celebrity,” literary specialist Marilee Cronin said of her dog, Gus.

The yellow Lab reached his celebrity status by working alongside his owner as she helps children build their reading skills.

“Something as simple as a dog, it turns out, really helps with kids,” Cronin said.

“When I see him, I get to pet him, and when I get to pet him I’m happy,” student Manny Vivas-Arguijo said.

Since December, Gus has spent time with students. School staff researched how dogs can help in schools and had families sign permission slips allowing their children to be with Gus.

“Some teachers comment they’ve never had a permission sheet come back as fast as they did with that one,” Cronin said.

Last day of school fun!! ☀️#lastday #wearestoughton #mrgus #summer

A post shared by Gus’ Book Club (@mrgusreads) on Jun 7, 2018 at 7:00am PDT

While Gus may not be able to read himself, he encourages even the most reluctant readers to pick up a book.

“In first grade, I didn’t really want to read,” second-grader Dallas Campi said. “And now, I always want to read.”

“Dogs are a nonjudgmental ear to read to. They just have a calming presence,” Cronin said. “Sometimes, if reading is something that brings anxiety for (the children), sitting and reading with a pet can be a calming way to encourage and keep engagement up.”

“He usually calms me down,” Campi said.

Gus goes where the job takes him, whether that means spending lunchtime with students who earned the privilege or providing support in the counselor’s office.

“If kids don’t feel comfortable talking to a grown-up, they can just talk to Gus and it makes them feel better,” fifth-grader Denali Campi said.

“I know (Gus) loves being here and being part of our school,” Cronin said. “He jumps right in and runs into the school and enjoys everybody.”

Cronin said Gus will return next year.