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Library works on reading skills, dog friendship

July 14, 2010 - Hey parents, are you looking for a way to help your child better their reading skills or just want them to get some extra reading in the summer?

Check out Independence Township Library's "Read to Paws" program.

"It's a great way for them to practice reading because they can read out loud, which is difficult for many of them to do in the classroom," said Stephanie Wotton, Children's Department intern. "It makes the kids feel special when they have their (the dog's) soul attention."

Volunteer Nancy Grimmer agreed.

"The program helps children enjoy reading without peer pressure, parents, or teachers telling them how to read," she said. "They have 15 to 20 minutes of time just to relax and enjoy the book."

Wotton also said it's good for children who have a fear of dogs.

"When they meet these calm therapy dogs they get over their fear," she said.

Volunteer Hope Ponsart said she thinks it's a great program and knows her dog Calvin really enjoys it. She said it also allows Calvin to be an ambassador for the bulldog, a breed which sometimes has a negative reputation.

"This gives them a chance to know the breed a little bit better and know they're a really solid family dog," Ponsart said.

Wotton said she would like to expand the program to be even bigger by using the ESL (English as a Second Language) program.

"We're trying to contact high school teachers to see if they can give extra credit to kids who are learning a foreign language can come and read out loud," she said. "It's a great way to learn and practice."

Volunteer Denise Bouckard, who brings her Golden Retriever Logan, said she is a retired para-educator with Clarkston Schools and would like to see the district use it as part of their programs.

"I think the kids benefit from it because animals are not judgmental and don't correct," Bouckard said.

Wotton said they started the program about a year ago when Caroline Place came in with her dog, Star who was part of a program that allowed registered dogs to go to libraries.

"When I was hired in she left for Florida," Wotton said. "We wanted to make it a bigger program, so we getting the word out and got flooded with 12 dogs."

Place said they did it twice a week, and if there were no kids, her and Star would go out into the library and recruit kids and they started seeing about 45 kids during the fall. She also believes it produces "a great level of confidence."

"I'm a reading specialist and know the importance of kids starting early," she said. "Getting over that feeling (of fear) and saying 'I can do this, I can do this.'"

Volunteer Dawn Kessler said she loves the program.

"It's good for the kids, good for the dogs," she said.

The next "Read to Paws" is August 19 from 5-6 p.m. in the community meeting room.

"I'm really happy the program has taken off and we have it so often and volunteers are able to come and spend their time here at the library," she said. "We have all resources here at the library and the best part about this place is everything is free."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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