There is a new volunteer at the Douglas County Public Library. Trace, a 4 ½ year old black Labrador therapy dog is all ears when first to third graders read to him from a book that is special to them.
A third grade student, Riley McHenry, had chosen “Gus the Greedy Puppy” by Jenny Dale for her reading session with Trace. Riley and Trace made themselves comfortable in an oversized chair at the library, and Riley read to Trace with animation and confidence.
Trace’s trainer, Terry Lynn Cuyler, had to give Trace subtle hand signals from time to time to keep him focused on the story.
Trace needs time to get used to each child, but within a few minutes he positioned his head in Riley’s lap, and was listening contentedly to Riley’s enthusiastic reading.
After about 15 minutes of listening Trace needed a break like any other 4 1/2 year old. “He really enjoyed that,” Cuyler said.
Riley loved it. ”I love animals, and I like to read books,” she said. She also loves horses, playing violin, skiing, and drawing.
Riley’s parents, Kelli and Billy McHenry and her younger sister Ansley, were also at the library.
Both McHenry’s are teachers and they visit the library at least every other week. “When Riley saw the notice about reading to the dog, she wanted to sign up right away,” Kelli said. Riley was even willing to give her horseback riding a miss for the opportunity to read her favorite book to Trace. Kelli said, “We really appreciate them offering this service.”
A second grader called Antony Pacurar also had a turn with Trace. He also read a story about a dog, “Ribsy” by Beverly Cleary. “He loves to read,” said his mother Lavinia Pacurar.
Anthony was the lucky winner of a Kindle at the end of the library summer program, because he read so many books. According to his mother he has been reading from the age of three.
Cuyler, Trace’s handler, invited children at all levels of reading to sign up for a reading session with Trace. They can bring their own books, choose one from the library, or select one from Cuylers collection.
Cuyler who is a trainer and former teacher wants to bring Trace to area schools so children can read to him. Trace is a therapy dog, trained through Reading Education Assistance Dogs. Cuyler volunteers her time, materials and the program is at no cost to the library.
What the children enjoy the most is that Trace will not correct them. He will just lie there and listen.
Library Director Linda Deacy said, “We are just delighted that Terry wants to bring her program in here. It really makes a difference in attitude for kids toward reading to have a nonjudgmental listener. This is outside the classroom, no one is correcting them, or interrupting. Trace just listens, and lets them work through the story.”
The parents of a child who wants to read to Trace, have to register the child at the library and they must complete a permission slip before their child can participate. The slips are available at the library, and on the library’s website on the Youth Services page. These reading sessions with Trace will happen every Saturday in October.
For more information or to send Trace an email visit READing Paws.
Article and image source: The Record-Courier