A young girl, propped up on her elbows, knees tucked under her body, hunched over a book in the center of the rug at the Edmonds Public Library. I couldn't hear the words, but I could see her reading aloud, halting and stumbling in the way I am familiar with having watched my son struggle to learn to read over the years.
What was missing though, were the furrowed eyebrows and the near-tears frustration that usually accompanies such endeavors — instead, every few sentences, usually during a rough passage, the girl reached forward and absentmindedly ran her hand along the side of the dog that sat in front of her. The dog’s head rested on his paws and his only response to the petting was to twitch his eyebrows in what looked like satisfaction, and shift his gaze to the girl’s face.
She read on, and when she finished she leaned fully forward and buried her face in the dog's fur, scratching behind his ears. She sat up and turned to look at her father — she was beaming.
Reading with Rover is a community-based literacy program in which therapy dogs (with the help of their owners) listen to children read during regular volunteer programs in schools, libraries and bookstores. The therapy dogs have a calming effect on the children and, of course, are great listeners. The children clearly feel safe reading to them, feeling neither judged nor self-conscious. The dog’s owner sits by and listens too, but the children seem to feel the only audience member that matters is the dog.
The set-up of the Edmonds Library is such that it can accommodate up to nine dogs at one session; some venues can only host one at a time. The day I was observing, there were five dogs, each one listening attentively to a child, while other children clutched books on the periphery and eagerly awaited their turn.
Any new reader, and especially those to whom reading doesn’t come easily, would benefit from this program. Check the Reading with Rover website for times and locations and just show up — no appointment necessary. You don’t even need to bring your own books — the volunteers can match your child with the just-right book. There is no cost either, so there’s no excuse — give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.
Upcoming Reading with Rover events
Redmond Town Center
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 6:30–7:30 p.m. (and all first and third Tuesdays at this time)
Saturday, Oct 6, 2012, 11 a.m.–noon
Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 11 a.m.–noon