Manís best friend can also be a kidís best reading tool.
No one knows this better than Nancy Bown, who feels fortunate that she can read with ease. A while back, as she was reflecting on her love of reading, she gave thought to what life might be like for a child who is struggling to learn to read.
As a dog owner and trainer, Bown began investigating the positive effect a dog might have in helping a literacy-challenged child.
She found on the website www.TDI-dog.org that canines are sometimes used for reading therapy.
"Children often become nervous when they have to read aloud," said Bown. "But if they can read to a non-judgmental animal such as a dog, studies show there's a calming effect, they go into a relaxed state, and their reading skills will improve."
Bown approached Coastal Branch Library's Branch Manager Linda Thompson with the idea and received an enthusiastic response.
Bown is now searching for suitable dogs that can be used in this therapeutic endeavor. The end goal is to team up with Coastal Branch Library to bring the TDI Tail Waggin' Tutor program to the area.
Bown said the main requirement for a suitable therapy dog is having a good temperament.
Such a dog would enjoy the company of children, be well groomed and in good health, and be able to sit nicely. The patient pups should also not mind having their paws or tails touched, and not react in the company of other dogs, said Bown.
"Most dogs with a good temperament can be trained to be therapy dogs," she said.
How much training would depend on the dog and the human involved. Some might require only one session, while another might get it after four weeks.
After training, the dog should be able to pass a Canine Good Citizen Test conducted by Therapy Dogs International.
Once a dog is certified, it could be used in a variety of programs, such as in retirement centers, said Bown.
"There are so many things we could use dogs for," she said. "All kinds of doors open."
Eligible dogs need not be pedigreed; they can be shelter dogs, just as long as they have a good temperament.
The main objective of the reading program is to provide a relaxed "dog-friendly" atmosphere that allows students to practice their reading skills, Bown explained.
"Other areas have this type of program, and they have proven to be effective in raising reading scores," said Bown.
Volunteer dog/handler teams are needed to ensure the success of the program. Oct. 6 is the final day to register for certification as the program is slated to begin at the library on Oct. 25. Any dog/handler teams interested in volunteering should call Nancy Bown at 376-4190.
An evaluator from Therapy Dog International will be at K9-5 Doggie Daycare, located at 3906 Hwy 98, on November 3, 2012 to certify potential canine candidates. For more information go the www.TDI-dog.org.
Parents interested in the reading program should contact Linda Thompson at 267-2809.
"We can only have as many children participate as we have dogs; that's the only problem," said Bown.