Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Dogs and kids .. Sit! Stay! Read!
Program gets pupils pumped about learning
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
The picture is my Nikki, a therapy dog.
BOTHELL -- In Room C3 at Woodmoor Elementary School, fourth-grader Andres Barrientos read aloud from the book "Who Wants Arthur?" to an audience of two: adult volunteer Karen Yuckert and Bourbon, her golden retriever.
As Andres carefully sounded out each word, Yuckert listened attentively, willing him on; Bourbon, snuggled in the corner bench seat between them, mostly just listened.
When Andres finished the story, he popped a dog biscuit in Bourbon's mouth.
"He's fun, nice, kind and kind of funny," Andres, 9, said.
Yuckert and Bourbon are regulars at Woodmoor, dropping in weekly to listen to Andres read.
"I always think, 'Tomorrow's going to be Thursday, I'm going to be with Bourbon,' " Andres said.
Bourbon is one of eight dogs that visit Woodmoor on Thursdays under a program called "Reading with Rover," designed to boost literacy skills for children who have difficulty mastering them.
The dogs' roles are passive -- the program might more accurately be named "Reading to Rover" -- but despite that, and the goofy aura of it all, the visits do benefit the young readers, special education teacher Betsy Leahy said.
"The biggest thing we see is that the kids start enjoying reading," she said. "They've been struggling with it, and all of a sudden, they're excited to read, and they bring books that they want to read to the dogs rather than the books that we have for them.
"They're not as fearful to read," Leahy said. "That self-esteem issue is huge.
"There's no criticism when you read to a dog, there's no correction," she said. "He just licks your face and thinks you're wonderful.
Reading with Rover got its start when Mie-Mie Wu, a children's librarian at the Bothell Regional Library, learned of a similar program in Salt Lake City.
We got in touch with some local dog owners involved in pet-therapy activities at hospitals and nursing homes and they started Reading with Rover at the library in the summer of 2001.
The program moved to Woodmoor Elementary last spring. Each of the eight dogs works with two or three children at the school, in half-hour sessions.
Volunteers and their dogs are trained to participate in Reading with Rover.
The pets are the "Eagle Scouts of therapy dogs" because they must remain calm around young children, even when the kids flop on top of them or tug at their ears, said Becky Bishop, a dog trainer who coordinates the program.
The demand for the program outstrips the supply of dogs and owners for it, Bishop said. And the demand may increase: Last Thursday, two women from the Highline School District south of Seattle visited Woodmoor, with an eye to bringing Reading with Rover to their schools.
Curtis Hezeau enlisted his Shetland sheep dog, Cole, in the program at Woodmoor. Last week, they nestled in a beanbag chair alongside fourth-grader Philip Gialanella, 9, while he read "The Mitten."
"I like dogs," Philip said. He looks forward to Thursdays and to reading to Cole.
"You get to pet him while you read," he said. "And you get to give him treats sometimes."
Julie Kehoe also joined the Reading with Rover corps, along with Seven, her Burmese mountain dog.
"I wanted to find a way for the two of us to do something good for other people," Kehoe said.
"It's probably the most rewarding volunteer thing I've done."
Read the article at: http://www.happypetstop.com/articles/pets/dogskids.htm
Free distributed article.
Posted by Ruth Bird
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