Man’s best reading buddy
RADFORD — In a side room at the Radford library, McHarg Elementary first-grader Samantha Crenshaw giggled as she read her book “The Backward Bird Dog”to an unlikely teacher named Hoss.
For three years, Hoss has been helping children not only learn to read, but become comfortable with reading in front of others. That’s quite an accomplishment for Hoss, who is illiterate.
But don’t blame Hoss for his lack of reading ability.
He’s a 185-pound English Mastiff who was rescued by Lila Borge Wills of Floyd. Hoss is one of Wills’ many therapy dogs who give children a comfortable reading partner and environment at the library.
Wills rescued Hoss from Norfolk after his owner, a homeless man, was unable to take care of him anymore. Since making the journey from Norfolk to the New River Valley, Hoss began making an impact on his new community through the Reading to Therapy Dogs program.
On Wednesday nights this month, children can sign up for 20-minute reading sessions with the dogs at the Radford library. There are usually three sessions per each dog Wills brings with her.
Wednesday night, Hoss had a full schedule and listened to three children read their books.
“The dogs are non-judgmental, and they don’t correct the children,” Wills said. “They don’t try to read the story for them or tell them to slow down or that they’re not reading it correctly.”
Wills, who owns a dog treat bakery called Possum Hollow Barkery, was contacted by the library about three years ago to see if she’d be willing to do a Reading to Therapy Dogs program.
Library billing and accounts technician Janet Crenshaw, Samantha’s mom, said the library believes in the program and what it’s doing for the library’s patrons.
“We’re going to do anything we can that adds to that pleasure factor of reading,” Crenshaw said. “This is about instilling a sense that reading is important and it’s something that can be shared.”
She said the program was very popular among the library’s patrons and that she enjoyed seeing her own daughter become more and more comfortable with reading.
“She’s always super comfortable with reading to them,” she said. “She wants the dogs to understand what she’s reading, but she knows Hoss doesn’t really care if she misses a word.”
Crenshaw said her daughter doesn’t get caught up on unfamiliar words with the dogs, whereas sometimes Samantha stops short of those words when reading to her because she doesn’t want help, or she doesn’t want to get the word wrong.
For Samantha, the pressure of getting every word correct isn’t there.
“The dogs can’t understand me, so when I make mistakes, it’s not like they’re going to bark at me,” Samantha said.
“The dogs are kind and gentle, and that makes me want to read to them.”
The Radford library hosts the Reading to Therapy Dogs program twice a year, during the months of February and October. When the program comes to the library, Samantha said, she can’t wait to get there to find out which dog she will be reading to that night.
“I can’t wait to be with the dog,” she said. “I always love thinking, ‘Which dog is it?’ ”
Samantha said she believes the dogs and Wills are both happy because she gets to read to them.
“That means we’re all happy,” she said. “It helps me think reading is fun because I love being around the dogs and reading to them.”
For more information about the program and how to sign up, call the Radford library at 731-3621 or visit www.radfordpl.org.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
No Comments »
No comments yet.