It’s certainly not news that learning to read is one of the most important goals of early education. Without the ability to read, schoolchildren may be destined to fall behind, have poor self-esteem, and end up ill-equipped to succeed in life.
The good news is that four-legged friends can often effect change for young readers who may be experiencing difficulty. The Read-to-a-Dog program has been around for quite a few years, and thanks to Linda Snyder and her Shih Tzu Linus, children from Huachuca Mountain Elementary School who are enrolled in the Sierra Vista United Methodist tutoring program are now able to participate in special reading sessions with Linda and Linus, a certified reading therapy dog.
The idea behind the program is that when reading to a therapy dog, the child not only has the opportunity to read out loud, but also experiences the dog’s receptivity. “This program has been proven to help children read better. They gain confidence and don’t have fears or inhibitions. The dog unconditionally accepts them and their reading without any criticism,” Linda explained. “Reading becomes a fun thing without having to be stressful.”
Actually, this is Linda and Linus’s first foray into a reading program, but the small dog has previously worked with persons in nursing homes. With his loving, calm temperament, Linus was a natural. Additionally, tri-colored Linus is hypoallergenic, an enhancing factor when visiting the sick, disabled, and young.
“Linus learned how to be around strangers and react lovingly,” said Linda. “The idea was to bring joy to those who might benefit from his companionship.”
It is as if Linda and Linus are coming full circle. Linda, for many years a teacher, also formerly served as a tutor for the Helping Hands Tutoring Program. Now she and Linus are back, trying to make a difference for young readers.
Helping Hands Tutoring is a weekly program offered by SVUMC to the students enrolled in its free weekly one-on-one tutoring sessions. SVUMC is located at the intersection of Buffalo Soldier Trail and St. Andrews Drive.