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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The idea is simple, but it’s one that makes a lasting impact on children and their journey to become fluent readers. To promote a comfortable atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes while reading, on one morning a month, the Wellesley Free Library hosts two therapy dogs for children to read to for 15 minutes.
In these 15-minute time frames, children can enjoy a cozy spot on a beanbag chair while Labrador retriever siblings Aspen and Corey listen to stories with their handlers, Penny Schultz and Joel Wolff. Though the husband and wife duo has been involved in therapy animal work for many years, they’ve only been taking Aspen and Corey to the library for the past year.
“I’ve been here for four and a half years and we’ve been doing it every year,” said Children’s Librarian Kristy Pasquariello. “They’ve been doing it since before I even got here. So we’ll do ‘Read to a Dog’ once a month and it’s great. It’s fun for everybody.”
Shultz and Wolff are a part of the Pets and People Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aspires to provide comfort, joy, and “people therapy” through pets.
“The dogs really do love the kids, and the kids love that Aspen is really soft and they can hold on to her while reading,” said Penny. “We really see that it’s made the difference.”
One question some kids were wondering was what kind of books dogs like. Nine-year-old Samuel, who reads to the dogs each month with his seven-year-old sister Isabelle, had the answer.
“They really like a lot of books that are about dogs and the ‘Gerald and Piggie’ ones. They love those,” said Samuel. He imitated Aspen’s attentive look and panting to describe the dog’s enjoyment for records set by canines in the Guinness Book of World Records, too.
While some have speculated as to what kinds of books the dogs are most fond of, Kristy assured the children that the dogs aren’t picky listeners.
“I think these dogs like whatever you want to read,” she said. “They just want someone to sit next to them.”