At 4 pm, each Thursday afternoon, the West Unity Public Library hosts “Tail Waggin’ Tutors,” a reading program designed to help the local children gain confidence in reading. Nathan Wieland is just one of many kids taking advantage of this opportunity to hone their reading skills. Open to children of all ages, the program allows kids to read to a well-behaved and non-judgemental furry friend. The program tries to give each one about 15 minutes of reading time with the animal. If a child is too young to read, he or she can tell the dog a story by looking at the pictures in the book.
Anna Ridenour, owner of 6 1/2-year-old Sky, volunteers her time, and her pet, to help the local kids become better readers. “Sometimes, reading to adults or out loud in class can be intimidating to students,” said Ridenour. “Many of the children who joined the program have improved their classroom reading levels and can now read aloud in class,” Ridenour added. Sky’s training seems to go beyond just listening to the kids; she behaves as if she truly enjoys her work.
The library’s branch manager Ruth Meyer believes the program, which has been ongoing for 1 1/2 years, is a success. “It’s a great program and I think more kids should take part in it,” Meyer stated. She feels that it improves reading skills and gives the children more confidence. She also added, “Besides, the kids love the dog!” One can see the bonds that form between reader and listener by observing the delight in the children’s eyes as they greet Sky. Sky is certified through Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and has ongoing training with Northwest Ohio Dog Trainers of Montpelier. She is trained and certified in agility, obedience, and Rally obedience and is also a show dog, among other services she performs. Sky passed her TDI certification at 10 months old but had to wait until she turned one to qualify on paper. No matter the qualifications, this patient pup is a star with the children in West Unity and the surrounding areas.
If Thursdays are not a good time to sign your child up for the tutor program, other slots are available by calling the West Unity Public Library at 419-924-5237 for an appointment. For more information on therapy dogs or to certify your dog, contact TDI at 973-252-9800 or visit their website at www.tdi-dog.org