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Reactions: What Parents are Saying

My son Logan is a 5th grader.  Logan is a very bright child who loves Boy Scouts and video games.  Logan also has Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of autism. I always knew something just wasn’t right.  He rarely smiled as a toddler and was very sensitive to loud sounds and strong smells.  His friends were stuffed animals as he never got along with his peers.  School was a struggle as he just didn’t understand how to relate to others in his class.  Academically, he had no problems with math and science.  Reading however was a struggle.  He didn’t enjoy reading; even resisted reading out loud as he had enunciation difficulties.  He was tired of everyone correcting his speech.  And then Logan met Mrs. Holamon’s therapy dog Gibbs.  Gibbs' calm demeanor helped Logan to slow down and enjoy books.  Gibbs doesn’t care if he doesn’t pronounce a word correctly or pauses to look at a picture.  Logan was excited about going to school on the days that Gibbs and the other READ dogs would be visiting.  Being excited about going to school?  That was a first for him.  They have a program at his school which tracks the books he reads, the number of words, and grades his comprehension.  Before Logan met Gibbs, he wasn't passing most of the quizzes he took and recorded no more than 400,000 words in a single school year.  This year he has passed every quiz with a 90% average score, and has read over 1,000,000 words.  Better yet, on his last birthday, he asked not for a video game but a book series as his gift. Emotionally, Gibbs has created a profound change in Logan.  I recall one time that Logan was reading a Clifford book to Gibbs and skipped a couple of pages because Clifford was sad and Logan didn’t want it to hurt Gibbs feelings.  Expressing empathy for another living creature is a difficult skill for someone with autism.  Time with Gibbs allows Logan to practice his social skills – no judgment, just acceptance.  His self-esteem has improved and he is a happier child.  I am so thankful for Mrs. Holamon and Gibbs – a truly remarkable team that have changed Logan’s life for the better.

R.E.A.D. Team Teri Holamon & Gibbs

Garland, TX

May 14, 2013

Our son has always been a shy, soft spoken child who would often shut down when asked to demonstrate his reading skills. As an emerging reader in kindergarten we were asked if we were interested in having him read to "Buddy" and enroll in the R.E.A.D. program. Along with a fear of being in the spotlight, our son also had a fear of dogs, therefore we were apprehensive about the program. We had no idea "Buddy" would help unlock his confidence not only as a reader but in other areas of his life. He began to share details of his school day with family, friends, and even read aloud in Sunday School. We also noticed a new found confidence in sports and athletics, a trend which has continued. Now an eight year old preparing to enter third grade, he has remained on the Honor Roll since first grade and has developed a love for reading. Two nights per week he reads to his younger sisters and answers questions about the stories. We attribute our son's success to his relationship with "Buddy" and the team effort put forth by school staff. Our son has immensely enjoyed participating in the R.E.A.D. program and we hope that it will continue to be a resource at his school.

R.E.A.D. Team Erin Ledenbach and Buddy

Proud parents in Tampa Florida

May 2013

My daughter read with Molly tonight and we were amazed on how well she did! She is in kindergarten and has been struggling with reading but there was something different tonight. Molly definitely helped my daughter and it was neat to see! I'm just in awe of how well she did and how proud of herself she was when she was all done!   She is also going through speech therapy and is sometimes not confident on her capabilities. What a difference we saw tonight! What a great service you and the R.E.A.D dogs offer!

Shakopee, MN

R.E.A.D. Team Connnie Priesz and Molly

January 20, 2012

The very fact that her kids are reading to gentile, adorable dogs seems to make reading much less intimidating to her kids. "This gives them a place where they can gently fail," she said. "The dog doesn't care if you make a mistake." Beyond the comfort involved in reading to gentile, furry creatures, Shulz said the biggest advantage of this program is that it has made her kids excited to read. "When you are excited about something then you want to do it more," she said. "The only way you can build a good reader is to build on their success." And while it is too early to tell the impact the event had on Shulz' kids, she said the confidence building aspect of the program alone makes it worth coming back next month.

Pam Schulz

Marion, IA

R.E.A.D. Team Pete Larson and Gunnar

March 2013

One day at my Daughter's school, A little boy came to Ginger to R.E.A.D. (He was in her 2nd grade class.) He had not smiled in several weeks because his father was killed in an truck crash (with a train). The boy and his little brother were in the truck with their father. His little brother was still in the hospital. My daughter, along with the boy's mother, thought it would be a good idea for the boy to READ to Ginger. He was sitting next to Ginger and while reading put his hand on her back and began to pet her. Then he started to move closer to her. As he did so, I noticed he began to SMILE! Just then my daughter walked by and saw him smiling, soon the other teachers tiptoed past and also saw him smiling as he read to Ginger. What a day for everyone, you see, it was his father's birthday that day. What a difference my little spunky Scottie made, All because of the R.E.A.D program.

Georgetown, TX

R.E.A.D. Team Hedy Pearlman and Ginger

May 7, 2013

Screaming. Crying. Heart racing. Nails digging. These are all words and phrases that may be associated with my daughter’s irrational fear of dogs. She became extremely uncomfortable around dogs of any size when she was around four years of age. Any size dog would set off an anxiety attack of epic proportion. Her interpretation of this "threat" did not differ between a large, angry dog roaming the sidewalks freely -- to a small, friendly dog who was being walked while on a leash.

As long as I can remember, she has had a remarkable love for reading. Thus, when we got wind of the "Reading Paws" program being held at the NSB Regional Library, we were ecstatic. I was especially excited about the opportunity to pair her very favorite activity with her greatest fear. She began visiting with and reading to Maggie each and every Wednesday since early September. Not only does she love doing so, and looks forward to Wednesdays on a weekly basis, but she has made significant progress. With the addition of Margot May, (Maggie's owner) having a school background, and understanding the complexities of even high functioning autism, we are thrilled. During her 20 minutes per week with Maggie, she has moved closer to Maggie while reading, talks to Maggie, and even attempts to play with her. Outside of the "Reading Paws" program she has engaged with friends' dogs and has fewer outbursts and fears. In my opinion, this program is extremely important to our young readers; regardless of whether they fear dogs. An individual who may not be a "strong" reader can have the opportunity to gain practice in reading on a weekly basis. He or she may feel at ease, without the judgment or ridicule of peers as they fine tune their reading skills. Also, Margot May provides so much encouragement throughout each session. Likewise, "strong" readers may benefit as they use these skills in front of others. Margot May also sprinkles comprehension questions throughout each story, and this skill is always important, despite your strength in reading. I look forward to bringing my daughter each week to see Maggie. The experience from a parents' perspective is that "Reading Paws" is a delight. We are very thankful to have contact with such caring people (and dogs too).

New Smyrna, FL

R.E.A.D. Team Margot May and Maggie

October 17, 2010

Austin read two books to Murphy on Saturday...and talked about it non-stop for the rest of the weekend. Murphy is a therapy dog. I've known about the benefits of therapy dogs in medical situations, but I had never heard of using therapy dogs for reading. I saw [the results] first hand. My son is a reluctant reader. By contrast, I am a voracious reader, and I struggle with the concept that he doesn't like to read for enjoyment. Granted, he's only 6 and still learningto read, but he sees it as a chore. However, on Saturday, he was chomping at the bit to get to the library and pick out a book to read to a dog. (Yes, he picked out the book based on what he thought a dog might like! It had puppies and kittens in it!). When it was our turn, my son smiled, and didn't stop smiling for the next half hour. He ended up reading two books to Murphy. The second one was hard for him. I was in the wings, cringing as he stopped to study a word, waiting for him to throw the book down and walk away. But he didn't. (A first!) Linda coached him through, and Murphy put her chin on Austina's knee and patiently listened. After our turn was over, Austin wanted to hang out at the library and read more books. (Be still my heart!) The promised results are impressive and spill over into all aspects of lifeless anxiety, more confidence and the sense of accomplishment does wonders for a child's self-esteem. The proof was in the pudding for me. Austin wants to set up a reading schedule for our dog at home (a crotchety old daschund whom I doubt will be amenable to the idea). He also asked me if he could go again.

Macaroni Kid Carver (Online Blog)

May 21, 2010

Spending time with Kalua has helped instill a love of reading in my son, Garrett, that I hope will continue with him through life. Thank you so much for providing this opportunity to the students at Grassy Lake Elementary. My son has immensely enjoyed this experience. We look forward to this program continuing at our school!

Thank you,

Wendy Rozar, Minneola, FL

January 9, 2007

I am writing this letter to share my appreciation for the R.E.A.D. program. I think this is a program that should be offered to all schools and children who are behind in their reading skills. In the 2005-2006 school year, my son was diagnosed with a slight learning disability. He was very much behind in his reading. I was asked by the school if I would be interested in him joining the R.E.A.D. program. I really didn't know much about it then, but I still thought it would be a great idea and extra help for his reading. After a few sessions I learned more about the program and saw how much my son was positively reacting to his sessions. I personally believe that by him attending those sessions has given him more confidence as a reader, on his own, out loud or even in front of his classmates. It has made him want to buy his own books. I owe Chelsea and Chantal Moore my gratitude for being such a positive role in my son's reading abilities. I wish more children will benefit from the same program.

Thank you,

Jannet Mayville, South Hull Parent

(Ottawa, Canada

"My son Eli was very reluctant to read aloud. We found a couple of easy books, and they put him with Maggie
(a Pembroke Welsh Corgi). He sat and started reading, and he kept reading and reading and reading. Now Eli reads aloud all the time. He's willing to sound out the big words. It changed him."

Barb Holton, about her 8-year-old son

December 6, 2004

[My daughter is] an only child, but she loves her dolls and kitty cat. If this makes her love books more, then I can't do enough to make it happen.

Katie Miller (mother of Molly, age 7)

Douglas County Library, Castle Rock, CO

My own daughter has benefited from the R.E.A.D. dogs but in a different way than intended. She loves books and we go to the library every week, but it is better for her when the dogs are there. She really wants a dog but our lifestyle doesn't allow one. So each time she meets the R.E.A.D. dogs she can spend as much time as she likes with them and gets to share with them the love she would give to a pet. This helps immensely with her psychological wellbeing. I have seen the ITA animals everywhere, and I see the joy they bring to people. I can only imagine what it is like for the hospital-bound or infirm to be visited by these loving and giving animals.

Heather Captain

When my son started reading to Buddy ... I began to notice how excited he was about reading, how he talked about it, and about the dog, all the time, and how the excitement and interest in reading carried over, even when the dog wasn't there.

Keegan's dad

Twin Falls, Idaho

June 3, 2003

My son is an emerging reader and he likes dogs a lot. He has never read so well as he did during his first, 20-minute R.E.A.D. session. He was really diligent. He really applied himself to read to the dog. This is a kid who has a lot of other options. It's baseball season now. It's great that he would willingly and happily go into the library and try to read.

Stacia Gentry, mother of Walt, age 6

In "Dole goes to the dogs," by Linda Downing Miller

Park Record (Park City, UT)

November 2005

Last year in grade 1, Jesse started out with a small word bank, and couldn't read. He was behind other students in his class. He started working with a dog named Chelsea from Ottawa Therapy Dogs. Jesse immediately formed a bond with her. He would always come home excited after reading to Chelsea. He then started showing a great interest for reading. By Christmas he was already up three reading levels, and by the end of the year he was up 10 levels. His word bank also increased dramatically. I was thrilled with the results, and so was Jesse. I would strongly recommend this type of therapy to any parent whose child needs help in reading. Jesse still talks about Chelsea to this very day.

Amanda, Jesse's mom

Lord Aylmer School, Gatineau, Quebec, CANADA