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Readers' skills improve while reading to dogs



SUBMITTED PHOTO - Inga, one of the dogs participating in the Tales to Tails program at the West Linn Public Library, quietly enjoys a story.

It’s a rainy afternoon and it’s dark outside. Inside West Linn Public Library, in the nook under the stairs, a child is curled up with a good book, reading to a dog.

Tales to Tails — the reading program that pairs children with specially trained therapy dogs — is in session.

Tails to Tales was founded seven years ago by then-children’s librarian Ellen Credle and therapy dog owner Barbara Miller, and currently consists of five dogs and their handlers. The program is designed to give children practice reading, and to increase their comfort reading aloud. It is especially helpful for children who are reluctant readers or those who are self-conscious about their reading skills.

Debbie Brown brings second- and third-graders Larry and Howard to read to the dogs. The boys have experienced a lot of life changes and they are energetic.

“It has really improved their reading,” she said. “They read loudly and clearly to the dog.”

And, Howard added, “It was fun reading to them and petting them!”

Miller is now on her second Tales to Tails dog, a 2 ½-year-old black Lab named Hazina.

“Her gleeful demeanor is not easily subdued,” Miller said. “Actually, she thinks she is a human. This program is special to me. I see how much it means to the kids.”

Sometimes, it seems as if the dogs are gaining reading proficiency along with the children. Betty Folmsbee, handler of Lena, a standard poodle, said that Lena loves to lie on the floor with her nose on the book as the kids read. Pamela Peet shared the same observation about Ella Jane, her Labrador/retriever mix.

“Ella thinks she’s a person when we are at the library,” Peet said. “She likes to get into the chair to look over the reader’s shoulder while they read. It’s really funny and very cute. We love this program — we’ve seen so many readers improve and expand their knowledge and comfort reading.”

The dog squad is rounded out by: Carolina, a golden retriever, and her handler Ellen Worsham; and Inga, a yellow Lab, and her handler, Pat O’Neill. All of the dog and handler teams are trained, certified and insured by either Pet Partners or DoveLewis therapy dog programs.

Tales to Tails takes place 3:30-5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Participants must be able to read or be learning to read, and must be pre-registered for the 20-minute sessions. Call 503-656-7853 ext. 4, or come to the library’s downstairs checkout desk to sign up.

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