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Paws to Read events give children confidence

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by Airman Valerie Monroy
JBER Public Affairs

1/7/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Library, along with Midnight Sun Service Dogs, is offering the opportunity for children in kindergarten through third grade to read to service dogs.

“Paws to Read is a program, where children who are having difficulty reading are able to come in and read to therapy and service dogs,” said Phyllis Talas, 673d Force Support Squadron library technician. “It gets them over their fear of reading out loud and gives them confidence when they’re just learning to read.”

During the reading session, the 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.

“If they look to the [dog] handler for help the handler will help them, but we request that the parents don’t correct or intervene,” Talas said.

The JBER Library plans to have three dogs at most sessions and to slot 15 to 20 minute sessions for each child. If there is extra time throughout the program or at the end, children are allowed extra time with the dogs. “We have one little man that is extremely anxious to get in there every time,” said Talas.

So far, there have been three Paws to Read events.

For a program that is just beginning, many people have been pre-registering and bringing in their children.

“We believe it’s progressing well,” said Marcia Lee, 673d FSS library director. “We have pre-registration and people are showing up because they’re interested in their children having this opportunity.”

Pre-registration lets the librarians know how many dogs they need at each session. For parents, it guarantees their child a slot, versus coming in and waiting for an open spot. “If people make the effort to call, they are guaranteed [a] spot for their child,” said Lee.

The JBER Library has received only positive comments and feedback from the parents and children. “We have a lot of repeat readers [because] the parents feel that this is a worthwhile program and keep bringing their children back,” said Lee. In an effort to bring this program to more children, the library is informing local schools about the opportunities. “We’re going to expand our offerings to the schools and take our information there,” said Lee.

The Paws to Read program is every third Saturday of the month.

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

To register or for information on more programs offered by the JBER Library, call 384-2665.


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