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Rouses Point couple make Tail Waggin' Tutors program a success

PERU Becky Pace was enchanted when she attended an innovative seminar in Seattle four years ago. The seminar was about Tail Waggin Tutors, a program that involved children reading to dogs I thought this is brilliant, said Pace, who serves as director of the Peru Free Library, and I made plans to start a program at the Peru library. It took four years to convince the librarys board of directors, find a certified therapy dog and trainer, and students to participate, but since January, area students have been improving their reading through the program. The program, which is through Therapy Dog International Inc., based in Flanders, N.J., involves one child, one therapy dog and trainer certified through TDI, and one hour a week for 10 weeks. The time spent reading to an accepting dog is believed to increase a childs confidence in their reading ability. In theory it is all about self-esteem, Pace explained. In practice it works. The childs reading level increases one to two levels in the 10 weeks. We have seen dramatic results in just three weeks. One young girl participating in the program told her father, I read today in class. When other kids read they dont listen. But, now when I read, they listen. Since January, Wendy and John Annette have traveled down to Peru from their Rouses Point home with their certified Newfoundland dog, Glory, to help improve the reading ability of area children. The Annettes own three certified therapy dogs, and due to the success of the Peru program, they are now involved with a program at Bailey Avenue Elementary School in Plattsburgh and St. Marys Academy in Champlain. They are busy five days a week with their dogs, also bringing them to hospitals and nursing homes. We think the reading program is great, and we are ready for more students, John Annette commented. They are amazing people, Pace said of the Annettes. I feel so fortunate to have found them. While Pace found the Annettes, the first students for the program were found by Peru Elementary School teacher Susan Edwards. The first student to participate was Taylor Higgins, whose mother teaches at Bailey Avenue. Her reading fluency improved, she said. I thought the program was so wonderful I brought it to Bailey Avenue School. Pace makes the opening evening of each 10-week program special by placing large orange paw prints out on the sidewalk in front of the library that lead right to the reading area. On the final day of the program, each child receives a card from Glory with the dogs picture on it. The card reads, Thank you for reading to me! Your friend, Glory. Glory was a really nice dog, commented Taylor. I think other kids should do it because it is a lot of fun. The Tail Waggin Tutors program is free. Those who know of a first- through third-grade student who could benefit from the program, may contact Pace at 643-8618. To learn more about TDI and all of its programs, contact them at 1-973-252-9800 or through their Web site, www.tdi-dog.org.

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