Reading Assistant Dog Available at Library

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By Lesley Lipska, publications specialist at the Wyoming State Library, from The Outrider, February 2008

Miss Hattie, a registered reading education assistance dog (R.E.A.D.), will be available for children to read to her during the remainder of the 2007-08 academic year at White Mountain Library.

Vicki Riley, Head of Youth Services, said “we met Miss Hattie this summer and she is so sweet and patient with our patrons.” She says students are invited to register to read to Miss Hattie during the next five months and can read multiple times during that period.

Miss Hattie’s handler Kari Bollig is a speech-language pathologist at the Rock Springs Child Developmental Center. She always looks for ways to increase speech and language skills in children. She heard of using therapy dogs as part of the speech services and attended an “awesome workshop.” After being with Hattie for a few months, she realized Hattie would make a “perfect therapy dog” and started gearing her training that way. Hattie was tested for Therapy Dogs International (TDI) on her first birthday, July 5, 2003 in Colorado Springs and “passed with flying colors.”

Bollig says, “Hattie and I were recently accepted to be an official R.E.A.D. team and will be testing for registration through Intermountain Therapy Animals in Salt Lake City this summer. Currently, TDI is our sponsoring therapy dog association.”

Studies have shown many benefits of reading to dogs, according to Bollig. Having a one-on-one with just the dog and the handler puts kids who have trouble reading at ease. She said it allows the focus to be on the dog and not on the reader. The dog handler can ask questions or help sound out words or ask for clarification by the reader using the dog as the focal point, i.e. “I don’t think Hattie understood what that word was. Can you try it again?” She says this gives the reader some indirect modeling and help with reading without the pressure of reading in front of peers or teachers. Using this method in the schools has increased reading levels for many children, according to Bollig.

Riley and Bollig set up a reading schedule for January through May. The reading program takes place after school from 4-5:30 pm three weeks on and three weeks off. The remaining dates are May 13-15, 20-22 and May 27-29. Days of the week are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Children can read up to 10 minutes for each session. They can register to read by calling or stopping by White Mountain Library.