Dogs Help Youngsters Improve Reading Skills
by Sandi Fahy
Photo by SANDI FAHY
LARGO - On a recent Saturday morning at the Largo Public Library, Evelyn Ann Hove sat on the floor reading "Charlotte's Web". Looking over her shoulder as she read aloud was a registered therapy dog by the name of Lovey. Evelyn Ann, who is 8 1/2, had come to the library to further her reading skills through the "Project Pup Reading Dogs" program sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Largo.
Lovey, a 10-year-old golden retriever, was obtained from a rescue organization, according to owner Pat Herrington, who was supervising the recent session with Evelyn Ann. Two more reading dogs and their handlers were also in the room with other children at that time. The Project Pup Reading Dogs program was designed to enhance the skills of reading age children through one-on-one sessions with a registered therapy dog.
All of the dogs in the program are carefully screened and tested to assure that they have the proper temperament and skills to do animal-assisted therapy, explained Ellen Jensen, who serves on the board of directors of the Kiwanis Club of Largo. Jensen and Dr. Regina Bennett, a past president of the club, were on hand to assist with the scheduling of the young readers that day.
Reading age children under the age of 13 who would like to improve their reading skills by reading to a therapy trained dog are asked to preregister for the 20-minute sessions. Walk-ins are accepted, however, if there are openings. Those who preregister have the advantage of reserving a spot with their favorite dog, Jensen advised. Pup Pal sessions are scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon the fourth Saturday of each month in the Largo Public Library Youth Services Department. To register or obtain more information on the program, call the library's Youth Services Department at 587-6715.
Ellen Jensen, left, and Dr. Regina Bennett of Kiwanis show books young readers can select
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