Kids read, dogs listen
Woofie is a good listener who loves to be read to, especially if the storyteller scratches his belly and feeds him treats every few pages.
A 7-year-old giant schnauzer, Woofie will be part of a special reading dog program at downtown Delaware’s Beehive Books, 25 N. Sandusky St., Delaware, where he and his other canine good citizens, Stella and Aston, will sit quietly while children read to them.
“Children love spending time with attentive, furry friends who won’t judge them if they stumble over a word or don’t understand a passage,” said Laura Pakis, the owner of Acme Canine who is putting on the event. “Reading improves as the child relaxes, and the adults are there to help with pronunciation and comprehension.”
After hearing a therapy dog reading success story about a former employee’s son, Pakis wanted to develop her own program at her Lewis Center-based organization.
The dog and its owner takes a six-week class that teaches them to sit politely, hold a book page with their paws and react gently with children. The owners learn how to help kids with reading skills.
During the Beehive Books event, the dog will be accompanied by its owner who will coach the child and the dog. The action is always directed back to the dog, such as if the child is having trouble pronouncing the word, the handler will say, “Can Woofie help you sound out that word?”
Pakis said she has taken the dogs to branches of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, as well as other libraries and bookstores.
Stella, less than a year old, is a beagle mix and owned by Acme Canine trainer Chris Debord. Aston, 2, is a rescued Doberman and is owned by Acme Canine trainer Jenna Augenstein. All three dogs went through the first round of Acme Canine therapy reading dog training, Pakis said.
Those interested in training a reading therapy dog should have a dog that likes to be around people. The dog’s owner should also have a passion for reading and like children. The dog can be of any size, and it doesn’t matter if it’s easily excitable; that’s a behavior that the classes can modify, Pakis said.
The classes are $225 and involve taking a written and practical exam. Dogs and owners receive a reading bag and journal, as well as tips and advice. Debord also teaches a reading portion of the class, so the handlers can help children with any issues. Therapy dogs can attend monthly meetings to share ideas, books and review the program.
“Well-behaved dogs are not born, they’re trained,” Pakis said.
Each child, ages 6 through 12, who attends the event at Beehive Books will spend about 10 to 15 minutes reading with a canine pal.
“As a dog lover myself, I think this is a wonderful way to help children read,” said Mel Corroto, owner of Beehive Books, in a written release. “There’s no better way than to spend the dog days of August curled up with a book and a friendly canine at our store. We hope to get kids excited about reading and ready to go back to school.”
To reserve a spot for a child or for more information, call Beehive Books at 740–363-2337.