Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Tail-waggers inspire tale reading for youth at EPL

Six-year-old Lucie Escobar sat on a couch in the Evanston Public Library as she read a “Henry and Mudge” book, not to herself or her mom, but to Cajun, an energetic mixed-breed dog.

The Tail Waggin’ Tutors program, which began in January, meets every Saturday at the Evanston North Branch Library, 2026 Central St. Children come in to read to any dog they want, as well as spend some time petting their new furry friend.

“We’re trying to give the children an opportunity to expand their reading skills (and) to become more confident because the dogs are not critical of the children,” said Anne Feuerstein, a coordinator with Tail Waggers Therapy Dogs, which provides the dogs for the program. “They just sit or lay there and listen to the children read, and that encourages the children.”

The program is open to children of varying ages and reading levels – even those under 2 years old who can’t read at all.

Three-year-old Karina Diaz’s mom read her “Some Dogs Do” and “Oodles of Noodles” as Karina petted Faedan, a cocker spaniel.

“I feel that it’s great to have her in an environment that’s so friendly to therapy dogs,” said Lupita Diaz, Karina’s mother. “She can’t read to the dogs yet, but it helps her with hearing and identifying the words.”

Diaz, a Chicago resident, heard about the program from one of her co-workers. She had brought her daughter to Tail Waggin’ Tutors before and loved seeing her shy daughter open up more.

“I am so in love with this program,” Diaz said. “If they had more programs with kids and dogs in Chicago, I would definitely go.”

Escobar’s mother felt exactly the same way about their first time at the session.

“(Lucie) loves dogs and since we don’t have dogs, it’s hard to come in contact with a dog,” Christine Escobar said. “It was really nice for her to have that opportunity and to practice her reading – I just love the combination of that. We’ll be back for more.”

As the kids practice reading aloud, they not only become more confident in their skills but also learn to read at a faster pace. Another program in Chicago, the Sit Stay Read Program, which works with inner-city schools, found that students reading to dogs read eight more words per minute than kids who don’t.

Feuerstein said Tail Waggin’ Tutors tries to bring in at least six dogs every week for two back-to-back sessions, allowing more kids to spend time with them. Throughout the week some of the dogs also go to Evanston Hospital in order to visit the ICU unit or the rehabilitation center.

Elaine Schwartz, the reading program coordinator, hopes to see Tail Waggin’ Tutors expand. Though the program may stop during the summer for vacation, it will run again in the fall and spread to other libraries and schools, she hopes.

In Alton, Ill., the Hayner Public Library program Bow-wow Pow-wow started with five or six kids and has grown to 25 or more. Schwartz just wants to bring in more handlers and work with more organizations to help children build their confidence and their skills.

“People bring their shy children here, and they interact with other kids and interact with other dogs,” Schwartz said. “It helps them develop socially, it helps them develop academically and it’s just fun.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Tail-waggers inspire tale reading for youth at EPL