Introducing the 'Paws for
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The selection process was "vigorous" and occurred in a simulated child/dog test environment at our training facility here at Spirit Ridge. We have made every effort possible to ensure that the selected dogs have the temperament to endure the energy that children have as well as create calmness on the children's part - which will help them concentrate on the reading, not necessarily the dog. For us, the dogs are the 'tool' that helps us achieve our ultimate objective - to encourage children in our community to read more! A beneficial byproduct of this interaction is that we get to teach children how to properly greet, interact and feel comfortable with a dog, which are very useful social skills given the number of dogs that exist in our communities.
The handlers of the selected dogs also have a vital role to play in the process. They have been educated and prepared to be (discretely) vigilant ensuring that the child/dog interaction remains safe and progressing well. In addition, the handlers may occasionally be required to (gently) coach the child into reading rather than being attracted solely by the 'newness' of the dog.
The location of the event, being the Wellington CLibrary - Hillsburgh Branch - is in our opinion the ideal backdrop that encourages both the literacy/learning aspects as well as a calmer demeanour by the children - an appropriate 'library conduct', in other words. This is one of the reasons we approached our local library staff in the summer of 2008 and they have ever since been tirelessly working with us to make this project a reality! Their hard work has not gone unnoticed by everyone working with Spirit Ridge K9 Training & Rescue on this project!
On the day of the event, parents should make every effort to arrive around 15 minutes before their scheduled time slots. Setting up the pairings by appropriately matching the dogs with the children will take a few minutes not to mention trying to settle the excited children! Once the pairings have been determined, Jim Tsitanidis (head trainer at Spirit Ridge) escorts each child to the set up area in the library where they are introduced to their handler/dog team. Parents can be extremely helpful in the selection process if they can encourage their child to answer our questions so that we can take his/her preferences into consideration when matching up!
At the end of the time slot, the children are returned to their parents one by one. We make every effort to allow the children that are actively reading to stay as long as possible. The handlers will be very instrumental in helping us determine which child has 'had enough' and which one hasn't.
Parents should also remember that the library is an environment where other are reading and enjoying the calm, tranquil library environment. Spirit Ridge encourages all parents to remind the children to be calm and respectful of others that are enjoying the library.
Are We Doing This?
None of this would have been possible without the Hillsburgh Library staff who are instrumental in providing not only the appropriate location but the know-how regarding children and books plus the demanding task of personally informing parents of the details, registering, confirming, scheduling and following up. Undertaking these daunting-for-us tasks has made it possible to allow us to concentrate on the details of the reading interaction. For that we are extremely grateful and appreciative!
Since Spirandlers a second chance at creating a wonderful bond and enduring relationship, it made a great deal of sense that we would try and expand that philosophy to encourage children to read - in essence - giving literacy a second chance with children. That's why we bring in (what I like to call) the 'big guns' ... our wonderful and encouraging K9 friends! We are thrilled that our dream has finally been realized and look forward to a wonderful, fun (and, calm at the same time) series of Paws for Literacy events in 2009 and beyond.
Dates, Pictures and Articles from Past Events
To view a short video clip of our "Paws For Literacy" (October 1, 2011) event at the Mt Forest library branch, please click here.
To view a short video clip of our "Paws For Literacy" (December 10, 2011) event at the Elora library branch, please click here.