Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What an amazing day

Many children struggle with reading. Yet if they do not master this skill early, they struggle through school and later in life. Studies have shown that children who have difficulty reading in front of teachers, parents or their peers feel comfortable reading to a dog. The dog doesn't judge them or make fun of them if they stumble over words.

Today, Bailey (my wonderful service dog) and I went to the Carmichael library and had the most incredible experience. Six children read books to her while I sat near. The librarian had a table with dozens of books
Photo: Read2 Rover file copy about dogs with reading levels from 1st to 5th grade; the children chose a book from the table.

When we arrived at the library community room, there were already three dogs with children next them quietly reading. I quickly took a spot on the floor next to the back wall. There was a line of little chairs with children, book in hands, swinging feet, waiting for their turn to read. When a child finished reading their book to the dog, they would excitedly return to a volunteer to receive a paper stamp of a dog's paw on their special bookmark. The next child would take their place.

The children that read to Bailey proudly showed me they had between 1 -10 paw stickers on their bookmarks. All recognized Bailey as a new dog. After introducing Bailey, explaining she was a whippet and answering any questions about her, we got down to the task at hand.

It was amazing to watch the process. One child, about 5 years old, was a very good reader; the others struggled with some of the words. Our job was just to listen and only help if asked. It was interesting that most got the word they were struggling over - given a little time. I wondered how many adults rushed in to correct them or lose patience listening to them read. With a hand stroking Bailey, or her head resting in their lap, they knew she was not going to rush them or make fun of them. They forgot I was even there, they talked to Bailey as if she were involved in the story.

Studies have shown that not only does reading to a dog motivate the child to read aloud, but their reading levels increase dramatically. Each dog is tested and insured under Delta Society and has been temperament tested to ensure the dog’s comfort and reliability in a variety of settings and situations.

In Redding, Prescription Pets is starting the Reading Assistance Education Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program in the library. Prescription Pets has visited hospitals and skilled nursing facilities in the area for many years with their wonderful therapy dogs . Redding East Rotary, through the Ducky Derby ticket sales, has provided seed money to start this literacy program.

I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to share my amazing dog with the children - I will be back next week.
*photo is a file photo from the Read 2 Rover program

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