When a child is learning to read, sometimes they need an extra hand, or in this case a paw.
The most popular children’s reading program at the Sachem Library in Long Island is taught by a different type of teacher, one who isn’t scared to chase away children’s reading fears, or after a bone or a ball.
The “Book Time With a Dog” program has been running at the Sachem Public Library in Suffolk County, Long Island since 2002, when Suzanne DiRusso and her dog Dakota started the program. Aimed at 1st through 5th graders, the program targets students who have had trouble reading in front of large groups because of fear of messing words up or taking too much time, and instead can be empowered to read aloud in front of a furry friend. The dogs meet once a week, and usually see more than 80 children an evening, with each child getting 20 minutes with a dog, bringing whatever book they choose to read. The program has been a hit, and is constantly booked even weeks in advance. The dogs, who are all certified therapy animals, range anywhere from Golden Labs to German Sheppards, and love all types of books.
sachemlibrary.org/pages/children.aspx - Sachem Library’s Children Section.
bideawee.org/ - Many of the dogs at the library are taught by Bidawee, an organization that provides therapy dog training.
tdi-dog.org/ - Therapy Dogs international, a database of info on therapy dogs.
While shooting this video, I thought the biggest problem I’d have was with the children and making them feel uncomfortable while I was there, and the last thing I wanted to do was disrupt them. However, all the children were extremely open, and many thanks go to them and their parents for cooperating. The dogs on the other hand loved the camera, and often stopped in their tracks to stare at me while I moved around with the camera.
The child comes in and it’s like they have a friend, as opposed to a teacher, teacher is an authority figure.
I’m a more of a gentle support, who has a dog on the end of a leash.
When it started it was children who were all having difficulty and needed to practice their reading with someone who instead of in front of class or in front of a teacher, but in front of someone who had no criticism.
So they knew they were okay to say whatever word they wanted to say wrong, ask for help if they needed to, or not if they didn’t want to, and they’re able to talk to the dog, cuddle with the dog. It gives them a whole different feeling if they were coming to a teacher.