By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Staff
As the summer winds down, many Needhamites are spending their last sunny days in the throes of leisure time. Many are relaxing by the pool, perhaps catching up on summer reading or finishing a particularly gripping read. Some, in preparation for back-to-school time, are getting a leg up on skills such as reading comprehension, vocabulary, and processing.
For those in that latter category, there's a helpful friend at the Needham Library: Tucker, a hypoallergenic cockapoo, helps children with kindergarten-level skills and higher achieve their reading goals.
Children build confidence by reading aloud. It also helps them crystalize information they’ve read, which can lead to better-developed critical thinking skills. Having an audience, or even one good listener (even a furry one), makes all the difference.
Tucker accompanied readers at the Needham Free Public Library on Tuesday afternoon, August 16. A trained therapy dog with a handler, Tucker showed up with his tail wagging, ready to hear some stories. Handler Faith Pongor explained that Tucker is a ten-year-old therapy dog that travels with her to hospitals, schools, and libraries all over the area.
Each child signs up in an individual, private session. Once afraid of dogs, Emma and younger brother, Emiliano, now can’t wait for Tucker to visit. Emma read “Erin the Phoenix Fairy” to the pooch as her brother listened along.
“The kids love the dog," Children’s Supervisor Paula Dugan commented. "He gets them interested in reading. He alleviates nervousness they have about reading out loud. If they make a mistake, the dog isn’t going to say, ‘you didn’t read that right.’”
Tucker and the Needham Library offer a non-judgmental presence for children to practice reading, as well as a calm, quiet environment in which to learn. Information on booking sessions with Tucker, or other events at the Needham Free Public Library, can be found at https://needhamlibrary.org