KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- We all know reading can be a challenge for many young children, but one third grade class gets an extra hand -- rather paw, every Thursday at Bearden Elementary School.
One dog is helping more than a dozen students improve their reading skills.
Meet five year old Bentley...
"He's the best thing that ever happened to me."
The black lab is much more than a furry friend to these third graders...
Ms. Libby Leinhart says, "He comes in for an hour a week and they take turns going back there and reading to him."
The students love to curl up to Bentley and take comfort in knowing he's all ears...
Student Connor says, "It's really enjoyable to do cause he listens very well and it's not like he's ignoring you, he's just listening to you."
Kathleen says, "It's just so fun to have him laying on us when we read."
Bentley has been coming to Ms. Leinhart's class since November through the "Ruff Readers" program.
Ms. Leinhart says it's amazing how much better her students are reading now.
"It's improved a lot because they get some extra fluency practice and fluency is related to comprehension."
Connor says, "I can probably read more than I ever could."
"It is phenomenal. The kids grow each time we come in and it's just great."
Bentley's owner Gail Alexander says her dog just may have the best job ever...He clearly loves a good book...
"When I pull out his identification badge to put on him, his tail starts wagging and he gets very excited and he knows it's time for him to go to work."
Ms. Libby says "He's non-judgemental. He doesn't care if he's heard the story four or five times. He's fine with it."
And the children couldn't be happier to share their stories...
"Pets and people--it doesn't get any better than that!"
the "Ruff Readers" program comes from UT's College of Veterinary Medicine...they also visit hospitals and nursing homes.
They're always looking for more volunteers. To find out how you can apply with your dog, go to VolunteerTV.com and click on the HotKey.