SOUTH OGDEN — In the past four years, reading comprehension and English scores for students at South Ogden Junior High School have increased.
But it’s not that the books and assignments that are different.
“It’s magic. It really is,” said Kimberlee Irvine, an eighth-grade English teacher at the school. “I wish I could explain it. But it’s just pretty much Bentley magic.”
It seems students who may not feel comfortable reading to their classmates have no problem reading out loud to Bentley, a golden doodle owned by Paul Woodin, the school’s librarian.
And the research Irvine has done backs up the “Bentley magic.”
“We’ve done data,” she said. “We’ve done studies, and the students that read with Bentley go up half a grade level in half a year more than the students who don’t. And that’s solid. That’s solid every single year.”
Maybe it’s because Bentley doesn’t care if a student reading to him is popular, athletic, or not.
“A lot of people go through their worst years during junior high,” said ninth-grade student Amanda Davies. “Just to have that friend come up to you and that’s not going to judge you and that’s not going to go away anytime that you make a mistake.”
Bentley just sits there listening to every word.
“I did not like reading at all. Like, not one bit,” said ninth-grader Matthu Martinez.
After reading out loud to Bentley throughout the past few years, Martinez now loves to read.
He says it helps to give Bentley treats, and in return, Bentley just helps.
“He helped me more with my speech and stuff because I have a hard time talking because of how fast I talk,” said Martinez. “Now, I go a lot slower and think before I speak so it makes sense.”
Bentley, with his student ID hanging from his collar, has been part of the student body for four years now.
Woodin started bringing Bentley to school as a puppy after getting permission from the superintendent.
“He (the superintendent) said if you can get him certified as a therapy dog, he’ll be OK with him to be here,” said Woodin.
Ever since, students stop by the library just to say “hi” to Bentley.
Sometimes, Woodin brings the dog just outside the library doors between classes so students can pet him as they walk to their classes.
“It’s been personally satisfying. To see students interested in coming to the library, maybe checking out a book, it’s been satisfying,” said Woodin.
Not only are English and reading test scores up, but so are library book checkouts.
It’s proof maybe all it takes to read better is reading to someone who can’t.
“There is something involved here that I can’t explain,” said Irvine. “But it is consistent. Every single student that gets touched by Bentley, it’s magic.”