READingPaws creates bonds
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Douglas County Library
WHEN: 3-5 p.m. every Thursday
INFO: 782-9841 or visit douglas.lib.nv.us
Grizzly and Jobie look forward to visiting Douglas County Library each week, but neither of them can read.
The two rescued therapy dogs are part of READing Paws, a program that lets children read to dogs.
Reading to dogs provides a non-threatening environment for kids to practice their reading skills aloud, said Terry Cuyler, president of the Nevada Chapter for READing Paws.
READing paws is an affiliate of Reading Education Assistance Dogs, part of the non-profit organization Intermountain Therapy Animals. Intermountain launched READ in 1999 as the first comprehensive literacy program built around the idea of reading to dogs, said Cuyler.
“There are READ programs in Florida, Tennessee, and all across the U.S. and Canada,” she said. “The program has spread rapidly around the world.”
Culyer founded the Nevada program when she moved to the area from Florida in 2012.
“I participated in READing Paws there (in Florida) and saw the need for one here,” she said. “We now have the Douglas County Library program and also volunteers in five Douglas County schools.”
Carson Valley Middle School and Zephyr Cove, Jacks Valley, Gardnerville and Scarselli elementary schools all participate in the program, as does Al Seeliger Elementary in Carson City.
Culyer said the program is generally for elementary-aged students.
“It’s for first- through third-grade at the schools, but sometimes we get middle school kids at the library wanting to read to the dogs, and there are the home-schooled kids too,” she said. “There is no age limit when participating at the library.”
READ utilizes registered therapy animals who have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament.
“Children read to dogs because they are non-judgmental, relaxed, comfortable, safe, empowering and fun,” said Cuyler.
Each child receives at least 15 minutes with the dog of their choice.
“That makes it all the more special because it’s one-on-one reading time, which helps the child feel relaxed and not intimidated by peers,” said Culyer.
Culyer said studies show READing Paws and other READ programs improve confidence and test scores in participants.
“When a READing Paws dog is listening the environment is transformed. A child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation and learning occurs,” she said. “The handler is a skilled facilitator too, shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the supervised reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material and gain fluency as a reader.”
Kimberly Fahey said she has been bringing her children, Elizabeth, 6, and Matt, 8, to READing Paws for at least two years.
“It has encouraged them to try different levels of books and has improved their reading ability,” said Fahey.
Elizabeth said she enjoys reading to the dogs and her favorite thing to do is show them the pictures.
Matt said he likes reading to Jobie because she is goofy and makes him smile and laugh.
“When these special animals come to hear children read, it’s fun and that makes all the difference,” said Culyer. “The human and animal bond creates a love for reading, which is our main focus.”
READingPaws is held from 3-5 p.m. Thursdays at the Douglas County Library. Parents must fill out a one-time permission form available at the library. On each visit children present a special bookmark to punch. On their eighth session they receive a free book.
For more information visit http://www.READingPaws.org or call 782-9841.