Steven Burt and his registered pet therapy dog, JJ, listen to Cary Lausch of Weddington read during the Paws Awhile To Read program at Union West Regional Library.
Therapy dogs help children bond with books
by Deborah Parkhill Mullis
A therapy dog can change a child’s attitude about reading. That is why Betsy Cullen, branch manager at Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail is so excited about the Paws Awhile To Read program beginning there this month.
In some cases, children need extra incentive to read aloud because they have been teased by their peers for missing simple words, explained Teresa Faucette, who approached the library earlier this year with the idea of bringing in therapy dogs to help kids bolster their self-esteem and improve their reading skills.
Cullen said she saw a similar program in Florida turn "reluctant readers into kids who were excited to go home and practice (reading)."
"Dogs don’t laugh at the children when they miss a word. If (the children) get frustrated, (they) can calm themselves down by petting the therapy dog. There‘s something good about having a dog beside you when you are trying to do something difficult," Faucette said.
Six-year-old Siberian husky, JJ; four-year-old sheltie, Max; and three-year-old long-haired dachshund, Dusty, all volunteered - along with their respective owners, Steven Burt, Faucette and Sue Pugyao - to spend their Saturday mornings supporting children who struggle with reading by listening to the children read their favorite books aloud. All three dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs International, Inc. and have experience working with children.
"The dogs are so sweet and so well-trained, they will sit still no matter what (happens)," said Cullen.
The trial program will operate from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 and 20. Children who have registered in advance will receive 15 minutes of one-on-one reading time with a therapy dog. "So far every slot for October has been filled and November dates have not been selected yet," Cullen said.
The program currently is limited to twelve children per hour. "We don’t want to have so many on the waiting list that they don’t get to read (with a therapy dog), so we may find it’s mandatory that we bring in a fourth dog," said Cullen.
Contact Union West Regional Library for more details at 704-821-7475, ext. 3.
This article above was published in Union County Weekly, Volume 2, Number 40, October 5-11, 2007.