Northwest NEWS

July 23, 2001

Features

Reading with Rover

Drop in at a local library and you may be surprised to find some readers there of the four-legged, long-tailed variety.
   Reading with Rover is a program in which children read to Magic, Boomer and other certified therapy dogs at the Bothell and Kenmore libraries. According to studies, therapy dogs bring the same benefits to a child struggling with reading they do with a patient in a hospital a calm, accepting and non-judgmental presence.
   Two children in the program offered these observations:
   "When I read, I stutter a little bit and when I read to the dog he doesn't make fun of me."
   "I think it might be easier to read to a dog because they don't [say things] like 'Ha, ha! He can't read.'"
   The program began with a call from Bothell librarian Mie-Mie Wo to Woodinville resident Dotti Snow of Paws for Health. Wo had read about a pilot project at Salt Lake City Main Library called R.E.A.D (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) and wanted to start a pilot program involving dogs, kids and reading.
   Snow became so excited about this program she enlisted the help of Dan Elliot, a recently certified Pet Partner, and asked him to help put the program together. From there they began looking for "a few good dogs."
   It didn't take long before Dan contacted Becky Bishop to find a lot of good dogs beginning with her own Magic and Boomer. Bishop is a dog trainer, pet therapy evaluator and owner of Puppy Manners. Many of her clients and friends like Karen Pomerinkea, also a dog trainer, are Pet Partners who wanted to be involved in Reading with Rover.
   Beth Grove, who helps transport the dogs to the libraries, knows first hand how a dog like Boomer can help. When she was younger she struggled in her special reading class. "I know I would have done much better sooner if I had a dog by my side to read aloud to," she said.
   "Our army of Rovers is very excited about this program," said Bishop. "Reading with Rover demonstrates how therapy animals can be instrumental in improving the literacy skills of children in an effective and unique way and it's fun. Research with therapy animals indicates that children with low self-esteem are often more willing to interact with an animal than with another person. They focus better on an activity or discussion when an animal is present. During these interactions children are inclined to forget about their limitations. There are physiological benefits from interaction with the animals, including increased relaxation and lower blood pressure, according to Bishop.
   "The idea behind the Reading with Rover program is children will find reading to an animal less intimidating than reading in a regular classroom setting. Having an animal helps the reading environment become more positive and fun and the benefits of that is a more enhanced learning environment.The kids love it. And the dogs love it, too," said Bishop.
   Reading with Rover is held at the Bothell Library on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. through Aug. 15 and on Saturday, Aug. 4. Call (425) 486-7811 to reserve a spot. Kenmore Library also hosts the program on Wednesdays through Aug. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. Call (425) 486-8747).
   For more information regarding this program or therapy animals, you may contact Becky Bishop at www.puppymanners.com or Dotti Snow at www.pawsforhealth.org.