Listening to the Readers
by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer
The Read to the Dogs program is one of many ways the Multnomah County Library promotes reading. Dog-and-person teams are available at several neighborhood libraries to soothe and encourage hesitant young readers.
At Hollywood Library, dog Archi and his partner, Emily Rogers, devote one and a half hours twice a month to listening to kids read. Does Archi understand the books? Probably not, even though kids often choose books about dogs, and Emily said he has a huge vocabulary. But he does understand his connection with the kids who pet, hug, and cuddle with him.
A certified therapy dog, Archi took six six-week classes: regular puppy and then therapy training. Archi was certified by Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization that pairs people with therapy animals to help people with differing needs in a variety of situations. Archi must be recertified every two years. While most dogs pass the tests and earn certification by age three or four, Archi passed at thirteen months!
Children sign up for 20-minute sessions, reading to and petting the dog, which often helps to calm the child’s anxiety. Archi and Emily are one of three teams at Hollywood Library. The sessions take place in a quiet, glass-walled room for child, dog, and owner. Parents remaining in the library can easily see their children. Occasionally a sibling comes too, and once a girl came in who was a good reader, but afraid of dogs. She ended up hugging Archi! Whole families have participated over the years as each child begins to read.
In addition to Read to the Dogs, Archi and Emily have volunteered at such places as the Tigard Public Library, Portland Children’s Museum, Portland State University during finals week, and with adults adapting to a new computer system.
Emily pointed out that although their 36 weeks of training was focused on Archi, she had to learn to communicate with, guide, and redirect him when necessary. Emily works full-time in philanthropy and is not an expert in teaching reading, but she is so committed she attended a four-hour training with a reading specialist. Emily and Archi clearly take their responsibilities to young readers seriously, to everyone’s benefit.
A few facts about Emily
Home library: Hollywood
Currently reading: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Most influential book: The Harry Potter books!
Favorite section to browse: Historical fiction
Favorite book from childhood: The Dragons are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky
Book that made you laugh or cry: Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein
Guilty pleasure: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite place to read: My balcony
E-reader or paper: Paper book!!!
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