Read me a story!

Written by Jason McKinney, this was published in the Spring 2008 issue of The Colorado Dog Magazine.

Woof! Woof! Read me a story!

One of the most difficult things for a child learning to read can be the self-consciousness felt when reading aloud to others. The ARF program (Afternoon Reading Fun) helps to alleviate this problem by allowing children to read out loud to a canine friend. Consequently, they feel a little more relaxed and have fun at the same time. “When talking with parents, they indicate that because the program is fun, it helps reluctant readers get excited about books,” said Sarah Johnson, Assistant Librarian at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library, located in Broomfield. Both the Broomfield and Longmont Public Libraries feature similar reading programs.

“This [type] of program most likely originated with Therapy Dogs International“, revealed Lesley Clayton, Manager of Children’s Services at the Broomfield Public Library. Clayton elaborated that the program is done differently in various places and she had always wanted to do it at Mamie Doud but could never find an available dog. Everything changed last summer when Samantha Bloodworth, a recent transfer from Tucson, Arizona, contacted Clayton about her dog, Shiva. Shiva was certified by Therapy Dogs International and now makes the ARF program a reality. She has been certified for a year and a half now and has fit into the program really well. Shiva knows how to listen quietly without correcting or judging. Her previous experience includes working in the Tucson-Pima public libraries in a similar capacity. According to her owner, “Shiva [likes to] get out of the house and gets to interact with children and adults…she loves the extra petting and attention from the children. It also gives us a chance to practice obedience training.”

shiva1

Broomfield offers their program on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 4:00 pm – 4:00 pm. The kids that participate seem to love the experience. “Whenever Shiva walks into the library, all of the kids get excited and their eyes light up…they all want to pet her,” said Johnson. Ranging in age from 1st to 5th grade, the idea is that the children’s confidence and reading skills will grow by sharing stories with the dog in a relaxed environment. “Children who might be hesitant or shy about their reading abilities feel more at ease reading to a dog who just listens and doesn’t judge their efforts,” said Clayton. No registration is required, but space is limited. Participants can bring their own books or choose one from the library.

shiva2

The Therapy Dogs International websie is endlessly useful when it comes to offering testimonials about this program, which has been practiced all over the country. You can access their site at http://www.tdi-dog.org/childrenreadingtodogs.htm for more information.

The Longmont Public Library’s program, which is similar to ARF, is called DEAR (Dogs Enjoy Afternoon Reading), and takes place once a month on Saturday afternoons. Their dogs are accredited through the Delta Society, a non-profit dog certification program that encourages canine community service is based in Washington State.

DEAR – Longmont Public Library
(Dogs Enjoy Afternoon Reading)
303-651-8477
www.ci.longmont.co.us/library

ARF – Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library
720-887-2300
www.ci.broomfield.co.us/library

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