Milford library dog aids students in literacy program
Seven-year-old Dylin Bonnstetter read a "Cave Dave" book to Grant, Milford Memorial Library's therapy dog last week. Bonstetter and Grant are participating in a program called Tales with Tails which encourages children to read with therapy dogs as nonjudgmental listeners.
(Photo by Anitra Wolf/DCN Staff)
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Anitra Wolf - Managing Editor
Milford's library dog Grant may not have the fame of Dewey the library cat, but it's coming.
This summer, the Milford Memorial Library launched a Tales with Tails program, urging children to read to the therapy dog as a nonjudgmental listener.
"Studies show that animals lower blood pressure and reduce stress," said Aimee Clark, special projects coordinator for the Milford Library. "Grant never makes fun of the kids. He never teases them, and he's a good listener... He makes kids comfortable."
While "working" at the Milford Library, Grant is stationed on a dog bed behind his owner Clark's desk. He does not roam the library, and visitors are requested to ask permission to pet the dog.
"When he's here, he knows he has to be on his best behavior," said Clark. "He's extremely friendly. We want visitors to ask permission to pet him, mostly to get children into the habit of asking."
Students participating in the Tales with Tails program join Grant at his station to read to him, and Grant provides a set of patient listening ears.
"It's fun to read to Grant," says Dylin Bonnstetter, age 7. Bonnstetter says he has read 14 books to Grant and especially enjoys books like "Cave Dave."
Clark says she has seen many children make strides in their reading abilities thanks to Grant's listening skills.
"Some of the kids in the program really struggled in the beginning, " said Clark. "By the end, they are reading a book all the way through."
When he's not at the library, Grant is the family pet of Clark, who brought the program to the Milford Library after witnessing its success in Oregon. Inspired by the duties of a therapy dog, Clark had Grant certified in 2007. The Milford Library is his first therapy assignment.
"Grant has never met a stranger," said Clark. "Everyone is just a friend that he hasn't met yet."
Grant is an eight-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, which falls within the pit bull breed of canines. Although his primary purpose at the library is as a therapy dog to work with children, his presence has also helped educate adults on the pit bull breed.
"A lot of people say 'Wow, he's nice for a pit bull,'" said Clark. "But he's not unusual. He is what he is supposed to be. They are just dogs, not savage beasts. A dog is a reflection of its owner."
Grant is at the Milford library each Monday and Friday as well as every third Saturday. On Mondays and Fridays, Grant meets with students enrolled in the Tales with Tails program who have been nominated by the Okoboji School District. When Grant is working on Saturdays, there is open reading time with him, and anyone who wishes may read him books. The next open reading time with Grant is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21.
A grant for Grant
Last month, after learning of Grant's work at the library, the Animal Farm Foundation granted a $1,000 Achievement Award to the Tales with Tails program.
"The grant is given to dogs in the pit bull breed that are doing positive things in their communities," said Clark.
"We are so happy to hear about all the work that the library and Grant are doing for not only the library patrons but for the entire community, especially given your geographic location near a town with breed specific legislation," said Caitlin Quinn of the Animal Farm Foundation. "Grant seems to be a fantastic ambassador for all dogs, especially those appearing to be pit bulls."
The library plans to use the grant funds to purchase a flat screen monitor that will display information about upcoming special events, Grant's hours at the library and other general library promotions.
Along with the $1,000, the Animal Farm Foundation also donated three books to the Milford Library, targeted at students who read books to Grant.
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