San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

Moses, left, and Israel Daniel, right. PHOTO via SMCISD


Texas School Business magazine announced today that San Marcos CISD’s Animal Reading Friends program is one of 12 initiatives to be honored in the magazine’s Fifth Annual Bragging Rights 2011-2012 special issue.

The special issue, which accepts nominations and selects 12 stories to highlight, was distributed to more than 8,000 readers with a vested interest in Texas public education. With pass-along readership, the annual issue will reach at least 25,000 readers.

“We were impressed by the cleverness of this program, and it’s clearly making a difference among shy readers,” said Katie Ford, Texas School Business editorial director. “This is a model program, and we’re proud to highlight it as an example of excellence in Texas public education.”

Travis Elementary School’s Animal Reading Friends program began in September 2010 with trained Delta Society Pet Partner dogs Magellan and Moses visiting the school on Fridays with volunteer handlers Julie and Kevin Romig. The students would read with the dogs during 20-minute sessions. The program, known as ARF, is intended to pair struggling readers with a dog that patiently and non-judgmentally listens as they read.

“When reading with Moses or Magellan, the children relax,” said SMCISD spokesperson Iris Campbell. “Soon they enjoy reading aloud and are looking forward to the next time they can visit with their canine friends. Confidence grows, as do reading scores. Self-esteem and attendance improve.”

Courtney Beal, left, and Magellan, right. PHOTO via SMCISD

Jan Rudnicki, a Travis Elementary librarian who Campbell said was instrumental in setting up the program, likened the fear some children feel when reading in front of peers to the common adult fear of public speaking.

“They can become nervous, stressed, and self-conscious,” Rudnicki said. “The dread can cause them to avoid reading, and sometimes avoid school altogether.”

ARF received a grant from the San Marcos Education Foundation to expand the program with more books. Romig added a Thursday session with a chocolate Labrador retriever named Lazarus.

“The amount of registered Delta-trained volunteers is the limiting factor at this point, with another local elementary school wanting to join the program,” Campbell said.

Niki Konecki, Travis Elementary principal, said the Delta dog reading program “has been a win-win situation for all involved.”

The Texas School Business article quotes San Marcos CISD Superintendent Mark E. Eads as saying the ARF program “brings together the best elements of our educational system: a child willing to learn, teachers and educators willing to guide, and community volunteers who are willing to support and help make education happen.”

To read San Marcos CISD’s story online, visit

This is the first year Texas School Business enlisted volunteer editorial advisers to review nominations and assist with selecting the 12 honorees in Bragging Rights. The advisers were Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott and Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD Superintendent LaTonya Goffney. With the advisers’ input, the Texas School Business editorial staff chose the final 12.

Texas School Business has served as the independent voice for public education in Texas for 58 years. The magazine, which is distributed 12 times a year, is read by educators and school administrators across Texas.

Magellan, left, and Zeriah Torres, right. PHOTO via SMCISD.

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