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Paws to Read continues legacy

Paws to Read continues legacy

Story by A1C Crystal Jenkins on 01/22/2019

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Library is continuing to offer an opportunity for children in kindergarten through fifth grade to read out loud to local service dogs.

“We started the Paws to Read program three years ago, in reaction to the difficulties we saw some children have with [out-loud] reading,” said Phyllis Talas, 673d Force Support Squadron library technician. “By coming in and reading to therapy and service dogs, it provides them an opportunity to get over their fear of reading out loud and promotes confidence when they’re just learning to read.”

During the reading session, children don’t have to be worried about making mistakes or stumbling because the dogs don’t mind. If the children need help with certain words, they can get assistance from the dog handlers.

“Participants are encouraged to look to the handler for help with difficult words; we request that parents don’t correct or intervene,” Talas said.
The Paws to Read program is scheduled to continue every third Saturday of the month.

Because this monthly event has limited availability, the library highly encourages pre-registering. Time slots are anywhere from 15- to 20 – minute sessions and are preassigned to each child. Pre-registration allows for both the librarians to know how many dogs they need at each session and provides parents a guarantee their child will have a slot, versus coming in and waiting for an open spot.

“Depending on the number of pre-registrants, we will have two to three dogs at most sessions,” Talas said. “If there is extra time throughout the program or at the end, children are allowed extra time with the dogs. If participation rises, we will work to accommodate as many as we can allow.”

For a program that is well into its third year, many people continue bringing in their children after they see the effectiveness of the arrangement.

“The Paws to Read program has provided my son a unique opportunity to gain confidence while reading in a comfortable environment,” said Jade Patterson, spouse of U.S. Coast Guardsman Erik Patterson, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “Since the program’s inception here in 2015, my son Aiden, who is 11 now, has been to every program since. He has blossomed into a better-rounded student because of it.

“Kids who can cuddle up next to a content dog may find their inhibitions drop, and they begin to enjoy reading aloud more,” said Patterson. “It’s not often you see children these days looking forward to going to the library for reading. These days it is more likely you’ll see them sitting behind the electronic device of their choice. It’s great to see the JBER library staff, step outside the box, and bring a wonderful assortment of opportunities to children of all ages.”

Feb. 16 will be the next opportunity for children to participate and read to service dogs uninterrupted.

To register or for information on more programs offered by the JBER Library, call 384-1640.

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