HUDSON — Dogs, with their super hearing, are ideal listeners. At least that’s what the young children who gather weekly at the Hudson branch of the Pasco County Library to read to them believe.
The stories aren’t really for the dogs, of course, but to encourage youngsters to read and build their confidence.
“It’s a really great idea,” said Celleste Turgeon of Hudson, whose 5-year-old daughter, Abigail, came to the library Jan. 24 to read to several pooches. “It gives the kids confidence to try reading (aloud to others) where they would not have before.”
Paws for Reading, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Thursdays, is open to children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It is free and for more information, call the library at 861-3040.
Several volunteer dog owners participate by bringing their trained therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are different from emotional support dogs and service dogs, said Jim Villano of Hudson, who brings his dog Rosie to the library for the reading sessions.
“We love it,” said Kathy Villano, his wife. “You get to an age where you can’t do a lot of things for people, but we can do this, and the kids get a lot of enjoyment out of it.”
The dogs participating have been through therapy dog training at Jackie’s Wag ’N Train, a dog-training service in Hudson. Elizabeth Ruegg, whose dog Abby is one of those first trained, said the dogs learn to trust strangers and remain calm. Like some of the other dogs, Abby visits hospitals, senior centers and other venues.
“It’s very rewarding and a nice break and a change from regular work,” said Ruegg.
Nora Turgeon, 7, was a first-time dog reader at the library.
“I really like it,” she said. She has a dog at home, but said she’s never read to him.
Abigail Turgeon had the unique opportunity to read to a retriever who shared her name. As a reward after reading a book, the children receive a color button with the dog’s picture and name on it.
So, what books are popular among kids and dogs? Not surprisingly, books about dogs, but sometimes (boo, hiss) cats.
Sheryl Taylor of Hudson brought her daughter Alexys, 5, and picked a “pretty hard book” for her to read to Rosie the dog.
“She loves interacting with the dogs, especially since we don’t have pets at home,” Taylor said.
Alexys’ review of the experience?
“I love it,” she said, pointing to another dog on the opposite side of the room. “I read to that one last time.”