Paula Kelley is a reading volunteer on Tuesdays for the Grand Traverse/Antrim Migrant Summer School at Lakeland Elementary School in Elk Rapids. Bear, her golden retriever/collie mix, is a reading therapy dog.

They could go by car, but that’s 50 minutes away.

Instead, they take a 22-foot powerboat on a 15-minute jaunt across East Bay, and then a shuttle to the school where Paula reads to migrant students.

Bear, a trained therapy dog, is considered a “tool” that helps create a safe, inviting and non-judgmental environment for the kids.

“The dog is right there, but it’s a different approach,” school director Frances Medina said. “He’s like a buddy to get kids interested in reading.”

Younger students sat on the floor as Kelley read a book with Bear at her feet. The children learned that Bear, like each of them, needed to listen, sit down and not become distracted while Kelley read. Otherwise, Bear would get a “lizard brain,” or excited, she explained. Older students learned lessons on how animals, like humans, can make mistakes.

“It’s a different way of helping the idea of reading into a child’s mind,” teacher Lu-Ellen Baty said.

The six-week migrant education school is one of two operated in the Grand Traverse region by the 43-year-old Northwestern Michigan Migrants Projects. The other is based in Suttons Bay and is called Leelanau-Benzie Migrant School. The program will end Friday.

The Elk Rapids school has had 75 children from the ages of 3 to 21 enrolled this summer. The children come from Old Mission Peninsula, parts of Traverse City, Acme, Williamsburg, Kewadin, Ellsworth and East Jordan and are picked up in two buses.

Kelley adopted Bear from the Roscommon County Animal Shelter three years ago and the duo also volunteer in reading programs operated by the Peninsula Community Library based in Old Mission Elementary School.