Reading to adults can be scary for some children. Adults can get frustrated if a child struggles with words.
Dogs, on the other hand, are fun to read to. They are not critical or judgmental, no matter how long it takes to read a book. They patiently wait, often smiling and wagging their tail.
Connecting the dots, the “Tail Waggin’ Tutors program began.
Ann Josten, and her yellow lab Maple, have been a part of the program at the Sumner Public Library since November. Maple has had as many as a dozen youngsters read to her on a Friday afternoon. But the numbers have been dwindling the past few weeks.
“It’s transitional at the end of the school year,” Josten said. “People’s minds are a little different.”
When kids were coming, Josten said she could see their reading improve dramatically, “even in an hour’s time.” Some kids would read one book, others would read many to Maple.
Maple, who is 3, is a therapy dog, trained in how to deal with all different kinds of people, said Josten, who asked the library to start the program. Anita Sheneberger, youth services librarian in Sumner, now has two more dogs in the program, Mullen and Dan. There will be just one more reading, at 4 p.m. June 27, before a summer break.
The library will be closed for a few weeks in the summer for a major remodel. It will reopen Sept. 17, so the Tail Waggin’ Tutors hopes to start up again around Sept. 28.
Josten said it is fun to watch the children of different ages with her dog Maple. Those around age 4 will just show her the pictures in books, while middle schoolers actually will turn it into a storytime and read to the younger kids.
Some children come in and know exactly what to do, while others will hang back around the computers before feeling comfortable and joining in. “Once they can tell what’s going on they warm up to it and sit right down,” Sheneberger said.
Josten said in Texas the readings are so popular children have to wait in line to do it. “We’ll get there,” Sheneberger said.
For more information about the program go to Therapy Dogs International’s website at: www.tdi-dog.org.