Dog days: kids read to four-legged friend

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photo of a dog and person inside a library
No dog ears in the books! Hobbes and Stephanie Woinowsk get ready to read.

A perfect Saturday morning for 8-year-old Hobbes starts on the couch of the children’s section at the Delta Township District Library. Basking in the sunlight, Hobbes relaxes as kids read their favorite books to him. Even better, he gets pets from all of his guests.

Hobbes, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, has been part of the Paws for Reading program for almost his whole life. As a licensed therapy dog, he is the perfect companion for nerve-wracking activities, like learning to read. Therapy Dogs International started the program, also known as Tail Waggin’ Tutors, to give children an opportunity to practice reading out loud in a comfortable environment.

Stephanie Woinowsk, Hobbes’ owner, said that Paws for Reading increases children’s confidence in reading.

“Research has been done that when a kid can read to a dog it increases competence,” Woinowsk said. “A dog is not judgmental.”

Fourth grader Olivia Jacobs has read to Hobbes twice, and is excited to come back. Jacobs said, “I normally feel a little nervous reading out loud,” but sitting with the dog makes her feel better. She especially likes the program because of Hobbes’ reactions.

“I feel like the dog really likes when I read,” Olivia said.

Hobbes visits the library once a month, and Woinowsk said he loves it. She said “he even has groupies that follow him” every time he comes. 

While testing and training to become a licensed therapy dog was intensive, Hobbes can now sit back, relax and listen. Woinowsk said he has “an innate ability” to be calm and comforting with the kids, and he puts it to use everywhere he goes. 

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