By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Reading can be a struggle for some kids. Words can have too many syllables, be too long, or be too infrequently used for them to know what they mean. But with a good audience, reading can be a blast. To that end, on Saturday, November 16, kids came to the Westwood Library to meet and read with a few special new friends: Cody, the cocker spaniel, and Neely, the golden retriever.
Maggie, age eight, was the first participant to read to the dogs. She was asked which dog she wanted to read to during her allotted time. “Can I read to both of them?” she asked, grinning when the answer was yes.
Maggie began reading her chosen book, “Nancy Clancy, Late Breaking News,” by Jane O’Connor. Neely laid down with a big sigh while Cody snuggled right up to Maggie and began licking her hand. As she read, Neely rolled onto his side, completely relaxed by the reading. Maggie was also at ease, reading the book without stumbling over any of the words.
In the middle of the session, another child joined the reading session, taking a seat next to Neely. This pupil picked out a book, “Biscuit Plays Ball” - a fitting tale to read to Neely. As he was being read to, Neely sat up the entire time, looking behind at his owner as if to say that he was engaged and enjoying the book he was being read.
“He liked it. He’s very relaxed,” said his handler, Jen, at the conclusion of the book. Neely looked eager to hear a new story, placing a paw on his owner’s lap.
“Can I read another?” the reader asked. Jen nodded. The next book he picked out was “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,” by Lisa Papp. This book described the experience of reading to Boney, a dog, and how he helps the narrator improve his reading skills - perfectly fitting for the occasion. “It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” said the narrator, summing up the feeling of this reading session.
At the end of the session, Maggie and her fellow reader were both able to pick out a prize. Maggie picked out a rubber bracelet that said “You are pawesome,” a perfect pun that surely summed up how Cody and Neely felt about their new friends. Maggie was just as excited about reading to the dogs. “[I loved] everything,” she said. “The way [Cody] just snuggles in. I just love it.”
Both Cody and Neely spent just a few minutes with each kid, but the importance of those few minutes is priceless. During that time, these kids were able to read without having to worry about their skills being judged. Instead, their confidence grew - and they had the chance to cuddle with a new furry friend.