Every Saturday beginning May 4th, from 9:30 to 11:00 am, Purdy the R.E.A.D. dog, and her owner Michelle MacHugo, will be at the Mill Pond Library in Kingston. Purdy is a Reading Education Assistance Dog and can't wait for children to read her their favorite book. Why read to a dog? Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:
* help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
* listen attentively
* do not judge, laugh or criticize
* allow children to proceed at their own pace
* are less intimidating than peers.
When a dog is "listening" fear of failure is removed allowing a child to learn more effectively. The dog's handler is a skilled facilitator who provides subtle support without creating performance pressure in the child. Results are significant! Participating kids make enormous strides in reading ability with measurable increases in vocabulary, comprehension, and general fluency as a reader. This increase in reading ability goes hand in hand with an improvement in communication skills which in turn fosters self-esteem, confidence, and enhanced social skills.
All R.E.A.D. dogs are a registered, and tested therapy animal. They have been screened for skills, temperament, health, cleanliness, good manners, and attitude. They are animals who people can't resist approaching; they inspire confidence and trust in the people around them. They are calm and reliable, obedient, and impeccably groomed to be attractive and fun to touch and stroke. They enjoy children, and like curling up on the floor with them to hear stories.
What about allergies? Therapy animals are scrupulously clean and well-groomed before each session, which helps. Many therapy dogs are treated with a dander remover product and body deodorizer before they volunteer. If a child suffers from severe allergies or asthma, reading with a dog might not be appropriate or enjoyable. Want to read to Purdy? Sign up at the Mill Pond Library the next time you visit. Sessions are 15 minutes long and children can bring their own book, or pick one out at the library.