Through all the years that I've moved, I've always continued to read my hometown paper online. It's rare that I find an article that I not only like, but I'm willing to share - but I thought this was a great story! If I had the time, I would love to get Miss Astrea into a program like this.
In the Spotlight: Literature and leashes
by Kevin Young
Reading to a dog can be a challenge.
An untrained dog will flop around, pop up off the floor and rarely sit still, according to Cathy Frasier.
But last month at Mountain House Branch Library, children did, in fact, read aloud to dogs. Well-behaved dogs, that is, according to Frasier, who’s a board member and R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) chair with Paws 4 Friends, a program that helps kids become stronger, more confident readers with the help of trained canines.
“I love working with my dogs to help kids become better readers,” said Frasier, who admits that she struggled to learn to read as a little girl.
Frasier aims to improve children’s reading through the program. Since October, she has implemented the program in her first-grade classroom at Traina Elementary School. And since then she has noticed a vast improvement in her students reading skills.
They’re less anxious when it comes to reading in front of classmates, and she’s noticed a tremendous difference in their reading comprehension.
“It really does improve,” Frasier said. “I’ve seen big changes in my kids this year I haven’t seen in years past. Their scores are coming up faster than they have before.”
That’s why, every Saturday in February, children at the Mountain House library sounded out words and told stories to therapy dogs — dogs that know when to stay still and how to focus.
“It’s something they have to be trained to do, to look at the book on command,” Frasier said.
Mountain House library staff reached out to the local therapy club Paws 4 Friends through Therapy Dogs Inc., a national group out of Cheyenne, Wyo., to schedule a visit the library.
On Saturday, Feb. 26, for two hours in the afternoon, 20 children from preschool to sixth grade took turns reading stories to a Bernese mountain dog named Rio, a German shepherd named Bailey and a black Lab named Jack.
The three are special — not every dog is up to the task.
Disposition is vital to which animal is selected to be a therapy dog, Frasier said. Each dog must pass a routine obedience class and a temperament assessment.
“It requires that they are calm dogs, that they can handle distractions, that they don’t get flustered if people are pulling at them,” Frasier said.
Although Rio, Bailey and Jack were on leashes with their owners nearby during their trips to the library, they are also trained to be docile.
“The dogs have to be able to lay very still while the kids are coming and going, not to have a physical reaction to the kids, except just lay there,” Frasier said.
That means the dogs stay relaxed and focused, and the kids get listeners who won’t laugh or scold if they stumble.
“When the kids read to the dogs, the dogs are nonjudgmental. It improves their reading and their communication skill,” said librarian Kathleen Buffleben. “(The dogs are) just there to enjoy the story. It’s a dog, and he just sits there and smiles.”