December 1, 2014

By Helen Pike


Calvin reads to Koda as part of the Listening Tails program in Chestermere.

Calvin reads to Koda as part of the Listening Tails program in Chestermere.

Chestermere pups have perked up to listen in on the readings of classics like Charlotte’s Web and Curious George, and their sharp hearing is helping children gain confidence when delivering the must-reads to a pawsitive audience.

It’s called Listening Tails, a library program helping kids gain confidence in reading out loud by practicing in front of attentive dogs. It’s a six week endeavour, where kids come in every week and read for 15 minutes in front of a dog and handler, no parents allowed.

The program launched in March and is such a success it’s been expanded to East Lake School.

“More and more people are realizing how beneficial it is for their children,” said Steve King, President and founder of Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society.

“Dogs, when they’re read to, they’re all non-judgmental. They’re not going to pick up and criticize children if they happen to say a word wrong.”

He said parents who enrolled students in the library program saw marked improvement in their children’s reading skills.

“Usually the dogs are kind of looking up at the kids as they read out loud,” said Sheri-Dawn Guidolin. “It’s actually quite cute to see.” Guidolin helps facilitate the library sessions, which have been getting roaring reviews since it started–five out of five stars.

King sees a demand for the program in classrooms to give students that teachers have deemed to be on the shy side a chance to shine.

He approached schools in March to be a part of the program, but most, though excited about the educational value were nervous about allergies. He hopes East Lake School will help get the ball rolling for others in Chestermere.