Read Across America Week came in like a lamb for the youngest Lions at South Fayette Elementary School. Students in kindergarten through second grade spent part of their day recently reading to and interacting with two, one-week-old lambs.

The “Let Me Read to Ewe” program was the idea of California Area School District Superintendent Dr. Laura Jacob in 2021 to both celebrate reading and provide opportunities for animal therapy in her district’s classrooms. The unique learning experience has had such a tremendous impact on students that she offered to expand it to districts throughout the region.

The two lambs from Schwirian Farm, owned by Jacob’s family, were rejected by their mother.

“We know the educational benefits of reading to animals,” said Jacob. “They don’t judge you; they aren’t critical of your reading. And the lambs are gentle by nature with the kids.”

Students brought some of their favorite books to the elementary school’s learning lab, which became the lamb’s home in Lion Country for the day.

Some classes read together, while other classes read independently. No matter the structure of the 20-minute sessions, the visit resulted in exactly what Jacob envisioned – a greater love of reading.

South Fayette Elementary School Assistant Principal Pharlan Ives saw many of the other benefits of the program.

“The children had the opportunity to learn to be caregivers, to learn to be nurturers,” explained Ives. “They’ve been so caring and kind to our little lambs. They’re one week old, so we talk about how you have to be calm, quiet, gentle in touch.”

While only a week old, the lambs also visited students in the California Area and Duquesne City school districts.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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