November 27, 2014

By Michelle Young

The Chestermere Anchor:
Link Download

Michael DeLuca reading a story to furry friend "Levi"

Michael DeLuca reading a story to furry friend “Levi”

Maddox Hirtreiter-Stewart and  "Tucker" enjoying a story together

Maddox Hirtreiter-Stewart and “Tucker” enjoying a story together

Students Getting Reading Help from a Furry Friend –  CTDS takes their Reading Assistance Program to East Lake School

The Listening Tails program under the Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society umbrella, has been operating successfully at the Chestermere Public Library for several months. Listening Tails was established to help children improve their confidence in reading by reading out loud to dogs. Similar programs across Canada and in many parts of the world have witnessed significant improvement in the reading skills, and confidence in reading, of children who read to dogs.

The program was taken to the administration and resource teams of Chestermere based schools where it was initially met with some disappointment as many of the schools were not willing to introduce dogs into their catalogue of reading resources for struggling children, mostly due to the reason of allergies.

However, that all changed when the new East Lake School opened their doors and happily accepted the program. “Once I knew that East Lake already had a dog visiting the school I contacted the Principal (Val Murdoff) and suggested a meeting to discuss Listening Tails as well as sending them the website link. Within 48 hours I had the meeting lined up and they had already decided that Listening Tails was a great program before I arrived! Other schools I approached liked the program and believed in theory that the program would be helpful to the children. They accepted the material I offered them explaining the program but the concern over allergies to dogs was quoted as a reason why it might be problematic to have dogs in the schools. East Lake took a more proactive approach and managed their way through the possibility of allergies” said Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society President, Steve King.

King went on to say, “The plan is to run the program throughout the school year. We started this week with one session from 10:00am until 11:15am with 2 dogs. This gave 10 kids the opportunity to read for 15 minutes each. The demand already is so strong that we will lay on more sessions once we get more handlers – which we are in desperate need of. If people are interested in helping us and want their dog assessed, please either PM me through Facebook OR call me on 587 581-5571.”

“To “keep us honest”, we ask parents and the children on the program to complete a feedback evaluation on week 5 of each go round. So far we have received rave reviews and I am hearing comments like “my daughter now has the confidence to read out loud at school which she never had before thanks to her experience of being on the LT program”. All dogs on the program have been assessed for temperament, obedience and physical condition and are always leashed with a handler who has had a police check.”, says the CTDS President.

To get more information or register your child for this free program, call the Chestermere Library at (403) 272-9025.