FORT ASHBY - What do you get when you bring children, dogs and books together? You get happy, confident children who love to read!

For the News Tribune
FORT ASHBY - What do you get when you bring children, dogs and books together?  You get happy, confident children who love to read!  
A new reading program started at the Ft. Ashby Library in August that brings children together with a very special dog -  Whispering Pines Golden Moonshine JH, CGC, TDI, better known as “Morgan."  
Morgan is a labrador retriever and is a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International (TDI).  Therapy Dogs provide emotional support to those in need.   The “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” program is one of TDI’s many services.   
It is well-known that dogs help blind and disabled people in many ways. But they can also help a child learn to read.  Kids who aren’t comfortable reading out loud in front of people usually don’t mind reading to a dog.  
A non-judgmental environment is key to building a child’s confidence for reading.   Dogs just listen; they don’t criticize or correct.
The children at the Ft Ashby Library enjoy petting Morgan while they read, and giving her belly rubs - her favorite. While both human and canine feedback shows that reading together is fun, research shows that it is also beneficial.  Studies show that a child’s blood pressure rises when reading to parents, teachers, or other children, but decreases when reading to a dog.  Also that reading to dogs increases children’s reading skills and enthusiasm about reading.  
Some people who come to the Ft Ashby Library do a double-take when they first see Morgan. But most are eager to pet her and find out why she is there.  Even children who may be fearful of dogs quickly warm up to the 80-lb labrador and want to pet her.  
How Does the Reading Program Work?
Just contact Cindy Shanholtz at the Ft. Ashby Library to sign up (304-298-4493).  Morgan and her handler, Janet Roberts, visit the library every Monday from 3:30- 4:30 p.m. (call ahead - hours may change in the summer).   
The child chooses the book he or she wants to read, and sits in the session with Morgan and Janet, who assists only if the child asks.  Sessions are generally 15 minutes each.  
The children who participate in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program improve their reading skills and learn that the library is a fun place to visit.   They also learn how to interact with dogs in a positive way.  
And Morgan knows that when her special leash and bandana come out, it’s time for a visit to the library. She enjoys all the attention and petting she gets while she's there.
For more information, visit www.tdi-dog.org.