Corbin Bibeau reads to Cooper on Feb. 16 at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay. Dog owner Judy Hamilton of Hartford listens while Aiden Noll waits to read. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — A new program in which Spruce Mountain Elementary School students read to Cooper the dog is showing benefits for all involved.

Alexis Colson reads Feb. 16 to Cooper at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

The exercise started after Judy Hamilton of Hartford brought Cooper, her yellow Labrador, with her while delivering masks she made for students during the coronavirus pandemic. School social worker Jennifer Stone mentioned it would be great to start a reading program with Cooper, Hamilton said Feb.16.

“I would never have thought of it,” Hamilton said. “As the pandemic let up there were so many volunteer things I had been doing that would not work. I started bringing Cooper in in November before the holidays.”

Stone asked Hamilton to write a letter to parents whose children were being considered for the program to get their permission, Hamilton said.

“Judy is so great with the students,” Stone said. “She comes in once a week, gives a little extra help with reading. Some students need extra attention.”

“Sometimes children don’t like to read,” she said. “This is a fun way to build reading into their day.”


Hamilton is there to help pronounce a word or understand what something means, she said.

“I thought that I would be in a room with the teacher and kids, she said. Instead it is just Cooper, me and a child.”

At the end of each session, the student gives Cooper an edible treat, often giving him a simple command before doing so.

“At first Cooper was not used to kids,” Hamilton said. “Now he wants to go to them, loves having someone sit on the floor with him. It has worked out.”

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