January 22, 2013

Paws For Stories

Want to feel warm and fuzzy? Read today’s post, written by Kaitlin Martin, our Volunteer Coordinator. We’re fortunate that she also has her own business,Freshwater Photography and took the accompanying photos for us.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing some unique volunteers in action at Edison Environmental Science Academy. These CIS volunteers were quite small and furry. One was black with tight curls and the other was rust colored with wavy hair. These wonderful creatures are Darby and Brandy, two of several therapy dogs that make weekly trips to Edison to read with students.

IMG_9371I watched the children’s faces light up as the dogs appeared in the doorway, tails wagging. “Can I read first?” one student asked the teacher. One by one, each child walks the dog down the hallway (leash in hand) to the library, selects a book, sits comfortably on a beanbag with the dog, and reads a short story to the canine listener. The library is well-lit, with murals on the walls and ample books to select from. It is a quiet escape from the daily routine.

The (human) volunteers, Anita Lawson and Jeanne Church, both through RSVP Senior Services, listen in and assist with tricky words, if needed, but by and large the dogs are the stars of this exchange. Some of the more timid children come out of their shells when they have a non-judgmental listener. The dogs seem to enjoy being read to, as well as petted. After reading, each kid gets a bookmark with their dog on it and a hand stamp. They even receive an individual photo of them reading with the dog.

IMG_9413Third grade teacher, Sarah Powell, commented that, “Overall, the dogs coming is a hugely positive experience…The kids look forward to it very much.” She noted that one interesting outcome of the program is that students who were previously scared or nervous around dogs are learning “that there are many different kinds of dogs and that they can be a great source of comfort and companionship.” In addition to building reading skills, these kids are making new friends and diverse connections with the world around them.

See more of these precious volunteers by checking out our Paws For Stories picture album on facebook.  And while you’re at it, “LIKE” us to.

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