Since 2008, George, a reading therapy dog, has been coming to the Auburn Library as part of the national Reading Education Assistance Dogs® (R.E.A.D. ®) program to read with children. It’s true, dogs can’t read, but they can listen and listening to children read is what George does best.
Throughout the school year, George arrives every Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Auburn Library, 350 Nevada Street. Children can bring their own books or borrow books to read. The R.E.A.D. program is designed for children ages five and older but George will read with children of any age. She likes to see picture books and learn numbers, colors and shapes with the younger children. No appointment is necessary and the program is free. Each child is rewarded with a free book to keep after reading 10 books to George.
“Paws to Read has been a great service to offer our young readers throughout the school year,” explained Sophie Bruno, youth services librarian at the Auburn Library. “So many of our participants get so excited when Tuesday afternoon comes back around and they get to read to George! It’s so important to us that we foster that excitement — that we have programs for our youth that get them excited about reading and encourage them to look forward to coming to the library.”
George is a female, yes, female Mini Schnauzer owned by Helen Kline Kranz and Paul Kranz. She is registered as a therapy dog through Love on a Leash, the Foundation for Pet Provided Therapy, a California pubic-benefit nonprofit organization that works closely with R.E.A.D.
R.E.A.D. was launched in 1999 as a literacy program offered through the non-profit organization Intermountain Therapy Animals. The program uses animals to encourage children to read. Too often children are embarrassed to read out loud in class, afraid of making a mistake and being made fun of by peers. The R.E.A.D. program helps to build self-confidence in children.
After reading to George for several weeks in a row, children have been known to increase their excitement about reading, their comprehension of what they read, their performance in other subjects and their participation in class. According to Mrs. Kranz, children often relax and begin to pet George while they are reading. Before they know it, the children are reading with tone, expression and feeling. The children begin to interact with the story and discover that reading is exciting, which makes learning exciting, said Mrs. Kranz. Research has shown that a child’s life can be transformed through confidence in reading. The R.E.A.D. program helps to take away the fear of judgment and competition that children face and gives them the opportunity to develop positive habits about school, studying and learning through a relaxed and non-judgmental reading experience.
Animal-assisted therapy is successfully used in many programs. For example, George was named after a famous Mini Schnauzer who could sniff out skin cancer on people even before they were aware they had it. George has been used in many therapy programs, including nursing homes, residential treatment programs for cerebral palsy, day-care facilities for Alzheimer patients, residential foster care programs and after-school programs. However, Mrs. Kranz is convinced that, of all these worthy programs, reading with children is George’s favorite.
“What I find most rewarding about the program is watching a child begin to blossom and enjoy reading,” said Mrs. Kranz. “It is fun to witness the confidence in a child increase as he or she improves in reading. You can just see all the stress go away and the kids start to open up and relax as they read. It is very satisfying and rewarding to be a part of this program; knowing you are making a difference in the life of a child that will carry with them their whole lives.”
George welcomes new friends with open paws to come and read with her throughout the year.