UWGB Childcare Program Brings Dogs to Campus

By Iris Shipley, Rianna Jones, Ashley Harrison, & Grace Prust


The Phoenix Childcare Program hosted the event Read to a Dog on April 15th at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus.

The goal of the event was to help children of students and community members practice their reading skills. Read to a Dog brought therapy dogs to campus to create an environment for kids to practice reading. Dogs can’t judge someone’s ability to read, so the idea is it will help encourage kids to practice their reading skills.

The event started at 9 AM. Four dogs and their handlers from Packerland Kennels attended as volunteers to listen to the reading. All of the dogs have participated in volunteer events like this before. Two of them have been doing this since they were still puppies, while one of the dogs, Winston, has only done this a couple of times. According to the owners, all of these dogs love people. The Childcare Program provided a large selection of books to choose from if the children didn’t bring their own.

A table of books, coloring books, and other activities. If the children were tired of reading to the dogs, they were welcome to use the coloring books and crayons. Photo: Iris Shipley

Kayla Testroete, an intern for the Phoenix Childcare Program and Dean of Students Office, says the program was “hopeful that if we pair [reading] with something that is encouraging and fun for children that it will encourage them to read more.” She continued to say that as literacy rates have gone down with the rise of technology, it’s important to find other ways to engage children.

According to WiseVoter.com, the state of Wisconsin is listed as number 12 out of 51 in the United States in literacy rates. 21% or 43 million adults in the states have low literacy skills, which ultimately impacts the economy negatively. Many community members like Kay Voss say they’ve heard that the Green Bay public schools aren’t the best, but beyond that, they do not know much about literacy rates.

Voss says, “I think that any opportunity for them to read or even just to look at books depending on their age right if they’re not able to read yet hopefully brings them the joy of reading to them.”

Community member Kennedy Voss reads a story to a dog and his owner. All dogs in the volunteer program are part of the Packerland kennel club. The dog in this photo has participated in many of these school volunteer events. Photo: Iris Shipley

A new community member Haylee Hoffman from the state of Mississippi says she has seen a drastic change in her children’s reading abilities since coming to Wisconsin. Mississippi is ranked one of the lowest literacy states, listed as the fourth lowest for literacy rates. She says that this event was a nice, educational, and exciting event for the kids to get out. Hoffman says, “The kids loved it, and I was able to see their improvement firsthand. I would go to this event again for sure.”

Childcare Intern Pachee Stern says she expects the program will do this kind of event year-round. The program has hosted other events in the past as well, like a holiday wrapping party during the fall semester. UW-Green Bay students with children or dependents were invited to come and wrap gifts in a quiet environment.

Besides events like Read to a Dog, the Phoenix Childcare Program helps students in a variety of other ways. Students who have children or dependents can apply for a grant through the program to help with daycare and childcare costs. Pachee describes the two different kinds of grants. “One is a licensed care center for those using a licensed daycare center that is licensed through Wisconsin. We also have a grant for those using non-licensed, so one using a family, neighbor in-home childcare that isn’t licensed.” She explains that finding licensed care can be difficult and expensive for some families, so this gives students more options.

Students who are expecting a baby or who have just given birth can also receive help from the program. A child has to be six weeks old to qualify for the grant, but Pachee says, “Whoever’s in this position in this program will help support you find resources outside of school… because we know as a parenting student there are many more barriers than to just come in class.”

For questions about the Phoenix Childcare Program or their events, contact childcare@uwgb.edu.

Sources: “Literacy Rate by State 2023.” Wisevoter, 13 Apr. 2023, https://wisevoter.com/state-rankings/literacy-rate-by-state/.

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