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Be the voice for those who have no voice

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Description: Be the voice for those who have no voice

When the children at Glatfelter Memorial library read loudly a story, they did not clap, but they licked, barked and smelt.

2 years ago, after moving from California to Spring Grove, PA, Melanie Mersinger realized her child, Anastasia, was 9 years old at that time, struggled to keep up the new school. “She could not even read at recommended level in her class”, Melanie said. However, a program at local library helped her - thanks to very special dogs.

“At school, children must read aloud in front of the class. That's a lot of pressure”, Deb Sullivan, director of community relations of York county libraries (including Glatfelter Memorial Library of Spring Grove). But in Tales for Tails program, children began to read each word before the certified therapy dogs, the pets are docile and pliant, they helped children to have less stress. “Dogs do not judge”, Sullivan said. “It does not care if you read a wrong word. It just gives attention and unconditional love”.

The result? We have better readers. A California University’s study in 2010 that researched about similar read program showed an increase of 12% to 30% on reading fluency ability of children - a discover that Melanie can trust. “My daughter loves animals, so I think this program will give her another reason to read”, she explained. Since coming to Tales for Tails, Anastasia read faster and had less difficult to keep up in class. “We have a read test every two weeks and now I am doing very well”, said Anastasia.

Library’s program began 6 years ago when Gemma Martin, a retired primary school teacher, met a woman with a therapy dog and thought that Molly, the cute hybrid dog between retriever and hunting dog, would be a good candidate. Molly passed her certification examination and began to work as a therapy dog. Sooner, Martin began to think about other ways to use lovely nature of this dog efficiently.

“I know the read-to-dog programs in other areas and thought our community also need a program like that”, Martin said. Did not spend much time to convince the civil servant of Spring Grove library involved. In January 2006, Tales for Tails program launched: the kids started picking books, found a quiet place and read for some animals (comes with their trainer) which were recruited from the local therapy dog organization. “It's amazing to see these happy faces and waving ears”, Martin commented.

Since then, the program has expanded to six libraries branch at other counties in Pennsylvania, attracted 100 children /month, along with the children came to the library accidentally these days and wanted to participate for fun. Taryn Wallen, 6 year old, is one of the regular readers of the program. “My favourist dog is Harry”, she said. “It always lies next to me, and sometimes put it’s head on my legs to listen the stories.

Taryn loves dogs so much that she often registers 3 dogs at one time. “Taryn had no trouble in learning to read, but she was often shy with people”, her father, Michael, said. “Sitting down with a book and a dog is her comfort zone. It is supporting her”. And after a few months, Michael noticed a change in social skills of his daughter. “She began to open and interact with other people there”, he said.

Martin was not surprised. “Faith of a child is growing up in this comfortable, relaxing environment”, she explained.

To find programs in your area, contact your local library, access therapyanimals.org site and click READ or call 801-272-3439.

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