DALTON, GA (WRCB) - Students at Dalton's Blue Ridge Elementary School are always encouraged to expand their reading skills.
The largely Hispanic student body is often challenged by speaking one language at home, while learning another in school.
Jag, a Portugese water dog, almost two years old was found last year wandering outside the school. Now she's as much a part of the school as pencils and paper.
Physical education teacher Beverly Hedges said, "She's just kind of a gift for struggling readers. They love her, they're very relaxed in her presence."
Hedges adopted Jag, and has taught her a variety of tricks. But Jag's calmness and love of children required no training, according to Hedges.
"It just came naturally," she says. "She sits in that chair, and gives those kids her total attention. She shows them how to act when people are reading."
Ask anyone at Blue Ridge about Jag, and the student success stories begin flowing. Teacher Amanda Weeks says she has seen first-hand the effect a lovable dog can have on students who need a confidence boost.
"I had a student who was struggling, but when it came time for him to read, Jag came to listen, and he just started shining. It's a real reward for the student to have the attention of Jag."
Fourth grader Yaritza Torres said she loves Jag, "because you have fun while reading to her, and then the more you read, you begin reading at higher levels."
Teachers have even found ways to incorporate Jag into math classes, and the Dalton-Whitfield Library has made Jag a part of its weekly Saturday reading days. It's hard to tell who's happier, the kids or their canine friend.
Library Reading Day coordinator Karol Radovich said, "She has her own chair, she's a real draw. Our attendance is way up, thanks to Jag. She has done wonders for our program. And it's not just kids, it's people of all ages."
Teachers credit the school's administration for finding creative ways to incorporate Jag into their reading lesson plans. They say kids sometime just need a good listener, and Jag is happy to lend a paw.
You can "like" Jag's Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BlueridgeReadingBuddy