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In March, it was announced that National Dog Week 2016 had a new theme and logo! Today, on this blog launched to promote NDW, we present “Readers Unleashed: Promoting Literacy with K-9s.” We hope you love its logo, too, and will share with those groups and organizations that will help to promote this initiative.
As many are curious about these programs, we invited our friend Bocker Labradoodle to share his experience through a dog’s-eye-view. For more about “Reading to the Dogs” and National Dog Week, please visit the Today Show Parenting Team Site: http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/national-dog-week-2016-will-have-kids-pawsing-to-read
Can any dog wander into the library and be read to by a student? If not, what special training does a dog need to be part of reading programs in libraries and schools? No, a dog just can’t walk into a library or a school. A dog has to be certified with a therapy dog group in order to take part in reading programs whether they are in a library or a school. It’s not so much training, but the dog must pass a certification test with a therapy group in order to act as a therapy dog. Dogs need to be calm, gentle, not easily frightened by noises or sudden movements. There are certain rules to be followed by both dog and handlers. Of course, there is the matter of insurance and the therapy dog organization holds insurance for their dogs who visit certain facilities.
How long have you been listening to student readers? I passed my therapy dog certification test when I was about three years old. The first read program in which I participated was called Tail Wagging Tutors, in 2008.
How do you get your reading “jobs”? The therapy group that I have been certified with had a Tail Wagging Tutors group. A local elementary school made it part of the school day for these certified dogs to come and be read to once a week for an hour. The young people that wanted to take part were excused from their regular class for that hour. The classes were held in the school library.
Are some students afraid of you and your reading dog friends? If so, how do you help them overcome their fear? In therapy visits to schools, I have come across children who have been afraid of dogs for one reason or another. We have tried on occasion for the teacher to approach me with the child and almost always by the end of the session, the child is petting me and feeling like they made a huge step forward. It’s so rewarding for the child, the teacher, and of course me.
What happens if a student is allergic to dogs? There is no such thing as a purely hypo-allergenic dog, although some dogs have less dander. I’m sure it would be at the discretion of the family if a child has allergies.
Do you see children improve their reading after a few visits with them? It’s very easy to spot children who improve with their reading after a short time. We pups are non-judgmental and children are at ease reading to us, so they are more apt to enjoy reading and think of it as fun. By reading more, they obviously become better readers. Studies have been done and show how reading scores increase.
Do you have a special story or moment you can share about your work? Yes, the children would usually bring their own books to read and on one occasion one of the boys just came in with a notebook. We asked where his books were and he said someone at home had gotten ill and he had to go stay with a grandparent at night and he didn’t have his books. He said because he didn’t have the books he usually reads, he had written a story for me. It was a story about how much I meant to him and how much he loved reading with me. Very special to say the least.
How can schools and libraries find certified dogs to visit them? Therapy groups usually have lists of schools and libraries in their area that wish to take part in reading programs. Otherwise, schools/libraries can find out what Therapy groups work in their area and contact them. The elementary school I went to had an actual approved program that took part once a week during school hours in the school’s library. That was terrific.
What are your favorite books? I love anything that is read to me. So much fun to find out the different interests of each child I read with. So I get a great mix…stories about friends, animal stories, superheroes, science, sports.
Have you ever written any books of your own? Yes. My book is Chasing Bocker’s Tale. It’s about my early life and how I got involved in so many different things and found so many ways to help others. I have been invited to Libraries so children can read my book. It’s so much fun and I usually give them copies, pawtographed, of course, to take home.
We thank Bocker and his mom, Marie, for taking time to share with us!
If you wish to share your “Reading to the Dogs” story with us, please comment or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.