My daughter, Jessie, loves to read. When it’s time for homework, she always does her reading first. Spelling? That’s another matter. She’d rather clean her room, give up dessert, or take a nap than knock out her spelling assignment.
One reason Jessie loves to read may be this: For more than five years, I’ve taken her to our local library for Reading to Rover. Children read books to therapy dogs while dog handlers look on and offer help or encouragement. This program gets kids excited about reading.
Jessie has read to all kinds of dogs — huge ones and tiny ones, purebreds and mixed breeds. The kids enjoy being with the dogs, and reading to them can be less intimidating than reading to adults.
Monday evening, as I watched Jessie read to a beautiful German shepherd, I remembered when she was a toddler, sitting in my lap on the floor, petting the dogs while I read. I always kept one eye on her to make sure she didn’t grab a fistful of fur. As she got older, I sat on the floor beside her while she read simple picture books to the dogs. Now I watch from a nearby chair as she nestles up next to the dog, petting it while she reads at a speed that is probably faster than the dog can comprehend.
Inspired by Monday’s visit to the library, Jessie devised a way to read to Sadie, our 14-week-old puppy who doesn’t like to sit still. Jessie dug out her kindergarten nap mat and put it on the kitchen floor. Then, determined to keep Sadie on the mat while reading to her, she put Sadie on a leash and tied the leash to the refrigerator door. The plan worked and Sadie kept Jessie company as she read the whole chapter book.
We’re hoping Sadie will eventually become one of the great therapy dogs at Reading to Rover. Jessie is taking steps to ensure that Sadie will be ready, even if the library implements a dress code. She dresses Sadie in a variety of outfits and accessories, most recently a flowing blond wig. If you see a sheltie puppy walking down the street wearing a cheerleading costume, three necklaces, and a hair bow, it’s probably ours.
We all realize the importance of reading well. Many sources contribute to a child’s reading proficiency — parents, grandparents, teachers, even therapy dogs and their handlers.