Teacher uses literacy to rescue shelter dogs

By Lori Fusaro
First-grade teacher Ryoko Matsui has become a local hero not only to her students, but to the stray dogs she saves.
The Department of Animal Services launched the New Hope program five years ago in an effort to eliminate obstacles that might prevent the animals most at risk of euthanasia from finding homes. Those animals are placed on the New Hope Alert list, which allows for the waiver of all adoption and microchip fees.
“My first-graders will be reading to raise money. For every $300 we raise, we are hoping to have a reputable local rescue group pull a dog from the South Los Angeles animal shelter,” she said.
Every six weeks, the students are assessed on their fluency (based on how many words they can read in one minute). Matsui is looking for supporters to sponsor their efforts to improve. Each child is allowed to have multiple sponsors. The cost of a donation is based on how many additional words read that the student improves over the last fluency test. To put that in context, on the students’ second fluency assessment, the class as a whole increased their word count by 94 from their first test.
The top three most-improved students will earn a trip to the South Los Angeles shelter to select a dog to save. For every $300 raised, a dog from the New Hope list will find a permanent home. The donations are tax-deductible.
The next fluency test will be on March 1, but pledges should be made before Feb. 23. For more information, email missmatsui@aol.com.