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Reactions: What Animal Handlers are Saying


April 2015

"I have been a R.E.A.D. team now for many years, but the most rewarding time for me has been working with a third grader with Selective mutism. For those of you who do not know, Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder which is quite debilitating and painful to a child. I started working with the child last year, and at that time she would come down to R.E.A.D. with a friend. Mostly she sat and listened but gladly interacted with my R.E.A.D. dog, Smokey. Towards the end of last year she started to come down with her friend, but would take turns reading with her and petting my dog and laughing when Smokey would love her up with kisses. This year, however, she comes down to R.E.A.D. on her own and reads quite clearly, distinctly, even animated! She responds to questions I ask her, and initiates some conversation on her own... Once she opened up and felt safe with us, she just shines when we see her."

R.E.A.D. Team Meri Levesque & Smokey/Jazz

Hartford, ME


October 2014

One little child held my dog's paw for the entire 15 min R.E.A.D. session. I couldn't believe my dog didn't move her paw, but I am sure she sensed the child's need for connection. Of course, it reminded me of why we do this. That one child was worth my 2.5 hour round trip drive to that rural library!

R.E.A.D. Team Karen Prichard and Cabo, Angel, & Ruby

Pensacola, FL


April 2014

We volunteered at an elementary school for a year and worked with 3rd graders who were struggling readers.  Sophie and I were working with one little boy who could not read and could only look at picture books. He was still working on letters, so we were working on "H", practicing words like "horse" and "hand". The boy could not figure out "hand" so I tried helping with, "What do you put mittens on?" etc. - and he couldn't get it. Well, eventually Sophie put her paw on his arm, and I said, "Well, what does Sophie have on your arm?" He replied, "Hand." Oh, how Sophie made hearts sing.

Retired R.E.A.D. Team Jo Sorensen and Sophie

Brooklyn Park, MN


May 2013

Yesterday was our monthly visit to the library, where the kids read to Chase. I had chosen a book for the little girl who I was most concerned about, to help get her more engaged. She is so cute; she jumps up and down when she sees Chase. She doesn't have a dog at home and she's not completely comfortable around him yet, but she likes him a lot. She is usually very distracted and afraid to make a mistake with her reading, so I brought a book that I thought would help her. But she had brought a book of her own. She was very focused and had maybe memorized the book, but I was so proud of her. She read the entire book without distractions. It was amazing (she used to want to set the book aside and find an easier book if she encountered just one word that she didn't know). Later the librarian told me that her mom said the little girl has been practicing more at home and focusing on reading better because she is so motivated to come to the library and read to Chase. Although I sometimes wonder how much we're helping her with her reading, it turns out that we're motivating her just by being there and listening. Her motivation and improvements were very obvious yesterday, and her mom is thrilled. Of course, Chase knows just how to greet her, how close to sit to her, etc. because he's a sensitive dog! Yesterday we also got to hear some of our regular kids read and met some new kids. We handed out the "frequent reader" cards and the kids get to add a "I read to Chase" sticker each time they read to him. Once they have 8 stickers, they'll get a free book of their choice (and I'm also looking into getting comic books about Chase). Wow, this is fun!

R.E.A.D. Team Jenny Pavlovic and Chase

Afton, MN


May 16, 2013

We introduced the R.E.A.D. program to our elementary school last month. What a month Rufus and I have had. The school was so welcoming and even tho there was only 6 weeks left in the school year, they had as come twice a week to see if this a program they could add next year. Today was our last visit we were given handmade cards made by each student that read to Rufus. Then we were told a wonderful story about one of our little readers. She is being raised by her father her Mom walked out and the little girl is having problems. She did not want to come to school let alone do home work or read. Her father told her teacher that since Rufus has been coming to school, that she is excited to come to school and even reads to the family dog. He is very grateful that school had decided to give us a chance and that it has made such a difference for his little girl. Today they took us to visit the first and second grades. They all want Rufus to come back next year. As we walked the halls we met a grandfather of one of our readers, he thought Rufus was a made up dog and was pleased to meet a real dog. Even though are time was short I am looking forward to next year.

R.E.A.D. Team Sharon Smoker and Rufus

Genesee, PA


May 2013

The best thing is the joy on the children's faces when we enter the classroom, and Rufus is enjoying all the attention too!

R.E.A.D. Team Sharon Smoker and Rufus

Genesee, PA


May 2013

I wanted to tell you about one of the students that my dogs work with. My dogs are Shiba Inu and their names are Fredi and Suki Su. At one of the schools in Springfield we were asked to work with a young girl that was non verbal by choice. She only spoke in a very low whisper which made it pretty much impossible for the teachers to know how well she could read or for them to do any testing with her. She started reading to Suki Su and after several weeks Suki Su was unable to go with me so I took Fredi. It just so happened that it was very noisy outside the room we were in. So I said to the student "Fredi is 11 years old and does not hear as well as she use to. Could you speek up just a little so she can hear you?" She broke her whisper and has not gone back to whispering! It carried over into the classroom as well! I also took Fredi in so that she could be tested. We have continued to work with her and she will now even carry on a conversation with me! I am so proud of my girls.

R.E.A.D. Teams Charlotte Cline, Fredi and Suki Su

Springfield, OR


May 2013

During the summer, she visits the libraries two times a month for the students to read to her on summer break. Last week, a boy in first grade came to read to Molly. His father whispered in my ear that his son was having trouble reading and that he did not like it too much. The boy read three books to Molly! This boy was pleased with his reading and did not stumble on words, as he read aloud. His Dad was very proud of him. Molly laid with her head on his lap as he petted her and read. This is one example of how reading to Molly has been successful. The boy said he will practice so he can read to Molly again!

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

Shakopee, MN


May 2013

A lady who brings her foster children to the Library said that reading to Penny had turned a couple of them around from failing in school to doing well.

R.E.A.D. Team Janet Wertz and Penny

Memphis, TN


May 2013

One parent who meant well, but was being too stern and nit picking with her daughter's reading. I invited the little girl to read to Penny, if it would be OK with her mother. The little girl came running, book in hand. The book was just barely within her reading ability; it wasn't long before she hit a 'big word'. And almost panicked. I stopped her, and told her a big word was sometimes like a big cookie -- it needed to be broken into pieces.  OK!  That she could stand. I covered up parts of the word, leaving short bits to read. No problem! Then I asked her to put them together. She did! Still No Problem! I complimented her, told her that she got it right! Clever girl! She smiled! The next big word, I didn't solve for her, just reminded her it would be a good one to break up. She did.  It worked! I told her she was doing great! More smiles! When she finished the book, I told her she had done it! Read the WHOLE thing! And was reading better at the end than when she starte! I called her a ''fast learner'! Her smile took over her whole being! And her mama -- she was SO happy she was openly crying! The girl gave Penny a pat, and ran to her mother who gave her a huge hug! Mission Accomplished!

R.E.A.D. Team Janet Wertz and Penny

Memphis, TN


A 7 year old boy came up to me at the Byram CT Library and "asked if he could read to my dog Brasil" a six year old whippet. Of course I said YES and he sat down and began to read. I then noticed he was blind and as he was "reading" his Braille enhanced book I noticed he was using his other hand to "run" it over Brasil. I asked him what he was doingand he told me he was "seeing" what Brasil "looked like"! His mother, who was watching and began to cry saying "he would never pick up that book before!"

Brasil, to date, has been read to by 2130 children and in addition has accumulated 2600 hours as a therapy dog in Stamford CT Hospital in his five years as a Pet Partners Therapy Dog and READ Dog participant. He was featured on Diane Sawyer's ABC World Wide News and named Therapy Dog of the Year by the national

Planetree Hospital Association.

Don Smith

Darien, CT 


I just started a reading club at my school and the local public library group in January. I am really enjoying myself and so is Gracie. Last week, a parent told me that ever since her son has been reading to Gracie, he reads each night to his own black lab, Webkinz (Gracie is a black lab)! That just made my day! I am thrilled to be a part of this wonderful program!

Jodie & Gracie


The R.E.A.D. program materials offer so much valuable information and so much experience. I appreciate all you and staff do. It has helped me tremendously. I go through the material at least once a week and find something I hadn't seen before. Our schools often consider subject material separated from each other. I don't. Our lives flow each day and we don't segregate the pieces. The animals we use in therapy are in continuous flow with the child. I think that's one reason "animal therapists" are so successful.

Shirley May May

Overland Park, Kansas


March 2013

One day we had the school psychologist visit while we were working in Speech Therapy at another of the elementary schools where I volunteer. He's worked extensively with the children (who have learning disabilities) that were in the speech therapy session that day. His comment when we finished was that this session with the dog was the most animated and engaged he's ever seen one child.

R.E.A.D. Team: Kathy Ozimek and Lucky

Silverdale, WA


March 2013

We go to our local elementary school and work with children who have some delayed reading ablities. We have been doing this for 4 years now. Abbey has a few students that do not read at all yet, but they do have sight word flash cards. I have taught Abbey to pick a word from 2 cards shown. We play a game with the childrens flash cards. When Abbey gets a word right, she gets a card, when the student reads the word right they get the card. One day a little girl who doesn't read at all. (She doesn't even try) saw Abbey was winning all the cards..well she started to read all of her cards. She will not read for the teacher, but she will for Abbey! It warms my heart when the kids get into reading that were afraid to read to their peers or teachers. Abbey encourages them with a gentle paw on the book or a nudge. They see that she wants them to read and doesn't care if they make a mistake.

R.E.A.D. Team Yvonne Kass and Abbey Rose

Milton, FL


March 2013

Cassie enjoys visiting the classrooms of the children that are severely impaired in her Tales of Joy READ Program. She loves to read a story to the children or have the children that are able, read to her. Children that don't speak will sparkle and respond when Cassie arrives. One young child with autism would speak occasionally but used a communication device most of the time. After a few months of Cassie's visits one day he insisted on reading his book. Tears flowed down my cheeks as he read his little story. He is now using his own words to express his needs and wants. Cassie would like to feel that she inspired his speech.   

R.E.A.D. Team Cindy VanMeter and Cassie

Rio Rancho, NM



December 6, 2004

When Figaro nods off, I tell the kids, "Look! You did such a good job reading to Figaro that he fell asleep!" Last week, a little girl who had never read to Figaro got to the bottom of the page, stopped, and turned the book around so that Figaro could see the picture. She did that at the end of each page. She didn't show ME the picture, just the dog.

Rich Aronoff

New York, NY


October 17, 2004

One little boy, after working with Dusty for three weeks, confessed with a red face that he had a great memory but could not read on his own. After getting a magnetic board and working with alphabet vowels and consonants, he learned how words were formed and pronounced. The first word he wanted to spell was Dusty! By the end of the year, we couldn't believe it was the same child reading. The last day of school, he came by and requested that he be able to read with Dusty this next school year. Dusty and I were so pleased and thankful, and we look forward to working with this young boy again. It has been an absolute joy to be involved in the R.E.A.D. program!

Lynda Wigal, Therapy ARC and Project R.E.A.D.

Franklin, TN


April 11, 2000

One young child arrived at the library for the first time to read to one of the dogs. His head down and speaking in a whisper, he told me, "I don't read very well." The first week he only read a half a book, and two books the next. By the fourth week, his attitude was far different. He came running in and, in a rather loud voice for a library, exclaimed to my dog, "Olivia, I have a really cool book to read to you today, you're going to love it!"

Sandi Martin

Salt Lake City, Utah