Comfort dog helps improve literacy at Elyria elementary school

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ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW)– There’s a furry friend roaming the halls of Elyria’s Crestwood Elementary School with the goal of improving student literacy ahead of testing.

Jennifer Martinez, a reading specialist, and Griffen, a 1-year-old Bernese mountain dog, spend their days on the move visiting classrooms to get students excited about reading.

“Griffen adds to that learning and adds that extra little excitement that some of these kids need to keep them motivated to push hard to stay focused,” Martinez said.

Martinez said Griffen’s presence lightens the mood and opens the line of communication when students get frustrated with reading. It’s a change some teachers said they have noticed since Griffen started visiting late last year.

“I’ve seen definite growth with those students because they get excited, they get to sit on the carpet and read with Griffen, work with him. And I’ve definitely seen kind of an upswing with that and they’re doing an awesome job,” said first-grade teacher Danielle Siracusa.

Griffen has been a part of the Martinez family since he was 8 weeks old. 

Martinez said she applied for and received a several hundred dollar district grant to implement out-of-the-box thinking to enhance student achievement. The money was used towards Griffen’s continued training. 

“Part of the endowment grant that I actually received with Griffen from the district is to measure how the students are going to hopefully perform on these high-stakes tests,” Martinez said. “Those haven’t been released yet, so we don’t take those until the end of the month.”

Inside Siracusa’s class, disinfectant wipes were provided for students who touched Griffen. Because of health concerns there are some classrooms and students he does not encounter. Martinez said Griffen is always on a leash and information was sent to parents prior to Griffen starting at the school.

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