By Sarah Pecheco, Hawaii Army Weekly, U.S. Army Garrison-HawaiiNovember 7, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Groucho Marx once famously waxed poetic, "Outside of a book, a dog is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
All joking aside, studies have shed light on the correlation between reading out loud and early childhood success, which is why the Sgt. Yano Library, here, offers a program that pairs young readers with canine companions.
Read to the Dogs was created fours years ago by Bonnie Dong, supervisory librarian, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, as a means to encourage military children to come to the library and pick up a book.
"The more they read, the better they will be at it," Dong said.
Through the support of trained Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D. -- therapy dogs from Tripler Army Medical Center, as well as service dogs with the local nonprofit Hawaii Fi-Do -- and their owners, Read to the Dogs offers children the opportunity to practice reading in a fun, friendly, nonjudgmental environment.
"Sometimes children have a hard time reading in class in front of their peers because they are afraid to make a mistake," Dong said. "With a dog, there is no criticism, and they don't laugh if you make a mistake."
Despite its popularity with children and parents alike, Dong said this year Read to the Dogs was headed to the pound due to budget cuts. Luckily, parent-volunteer Jennifer Montgomery stepped in to help continue the program.
"I thought it was a good idea for kids, especially those like my son who have confidence issues, because the dogs don't judge. They just sit there and listen," said Montgomery, who first learned about the program after bringing her son, Braedon, to a similar community service event put on by the Military Police earlier in the year.
"He likes reading to the dogs," Montgomery said. "Since he started here, he's started reading to our dog at home."
The 6-year-old said he enjoys reading to the dogs because "they're so friendly," and that he likes to read chapter books about fish, snakes and dinosaurs during his 15-minute sessions at the library.
He also likes the take-home bookmarks given out after each reading session.
"(Reading to the dogs) makes him feel empowered," Montgomery said. "It used to be a problem to get him to read books, but now he wants to and will ask to have our dog be left alone with him in his room. He'll shut the door and just read."
Dong advises parents to encourage their children to practice reading out loud prior to coming to the library. She also recommends selecting books that are appropriate for the child's reading ability.
"Anyone who's interested can sign up and read to the dogs," Dong said.
Reading to the Dogs
Remaining sessions in 2012 are Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, both from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Reservations are a must, as each child gets 15 minutes of reading time. Arrive at least five minutes prior to your scheduled session. An email reminder will be sent out one week prior to your session. If for any reason you need to cancel, let the library know promptly, so it can contact the next family on the waiting list.
For reservations or more information, call 808-655-8002 or visit www.himwr.com.