Chester librarian Lori Metcalf invites Chester preschoolers and their parents for Preschool Story Time each Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Chester Library to provide an opportunity for kids to learn the joys of reading.
A special Story Time was held Nov. 14 that included trained therapy dogs provided by Kathy and Barry Morgan of Hamilton Branch for children to read to, or at least share pictures with, from an assortment of books that Metcalf had gathered on the topic of dogs, as a way to encourage children to see reading as fun.
The Morgans, who moved to the area in May with their two therapy dogs, Neva, a 9-year-old Labrador, and Docker, a 5-year-old golden retriever-lab mix, also have a home in Carson City.
“We started a library reading program in Carson City that we’ve run for the past eight years,” Kathy Morgan said. “We have preschool children sit down with Neva and Docker and show them pictures from books and describe what they see, because the dogs are great listeners. … We’re hoping to do the same thing here at the Chester Library on a regular basis, either once or twice a month.”
They also take their therapy dogs to nursing homes or hospitals to provide some companionship for the elderly and sick.
She said they’re looking to bring the same reading program to first-grade classes at Chester Elementary School for children with reading issues starting in January.
“We find that older children who have problems reading have less difficulty reading to a dog, because the dog is gentle and isn’t going to correct them,” said Morgan.
Metcalf started the Story Time morning by reading a book to the kids titled, “Move Over, Rover,” while asking them for feedback as she read to encourage them to express themselves. She then let the preschoolers enjoy the rest of the time choosing a book while interacting with the dogs, which also included a lot of petting.
Morgan said she and her husband belong to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, headquartered in Wyoming, which provides support for members who are involved in volunteer animal assisted activities. The organization’s motto is “Reading is Fun,” she noted.
The whole idea is to just have the kids pick up a book and read to the caring canines, even if they are not yet fluent readers, Morgan explained, adding that, “It’s especially great for preschool children who are still not quite reading yet,” because the dogs aren’t concerned if they make a mistake or don’t know particular words.
The kids attending the event that day included Priscilla Couch, 3; Jackson Benny, 6, with siblings Leo, 2, and Evan, 1; Makenzie Johnson, 5, and sister Emily Johnson, 2. The preschoolers seemed extra excited to make up stories related to the pictures in the books that they showed to Neva and Docker, who, by and large, seemed pleased to be there listening and interacting with the young toddlers.
Morgan concluded by saying that, “For kids who are still learning to read, they know the dogs won’t criticize them,” and that’s a big advantage to the program.
The Chester Library, located at 210 1st Ave., has a Facebook page with useful information for the community. Go to “Chester Branch Library/Literacy Program” to find out about Preschool Story Time themes, upcoming events and the latest library news or phone 258-2742.