Paws to Read: New library program helps children with literacy skills

20170201st paws to read 09 ZS
Zach Spicer, The Tribune/ Suzanne Steltenpohl lets Alexis Nantz, 12, left, and Kylie Haines, 5, second from right, pet her therapy dog, George, a standard poodle, as Delorice Nantz, 15, reads part of a book out loud during the first Paws to Read program at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour.

As soon as George walked into the Kidz Korner room at the Jackson County Public Library, children magnetized to him.

He just stood there soaking it all in as the children petted his soft white fur.

George and the children then made their way to the program room, where they sat down with Heather Robinson, youth services program assistant at the Seymour library, to take turns reading a couple of books.

When the kids weren’t reading a page or two from a book, they were petting George’s head and back.

Having George, a 56-pound, nearly 7-year-old standard poodle that’s a certified therapy dog, around made a difference for all of the children.

None of them had an issue with reading in front of others. They were as calm and at ease as George.

“A dog in this room with these kids, it makes them relax,” said George’s owner, Suzanne Steltenpohl. “It’s like they don’t think all of the eyes are on them. A lot of kids don’t want to read out loud and don’t want to participate in these programs because they are nervous or they are shy or they are scared. A dog kind of breaks that ice, kind of takes that all away.”

Paws to Read is a new program at the Seymour library, where children can practice their reading skills as they read to George. It’s for kids of all ages and literacy levels.

The other scheduled programs are from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday and again Feb. 16 at the library.

Robinson said last year, George was a part of a program at the library that focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) initiatives. Children would read a story to George and then do some type of project.

The library redid its programming, changing from a dedicated STEAM class to a dedicated reading class. The staff thought George could play an important role in the new program, too.

Read the full story in Wednesday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.

Also, find a story about a local assisted living center adopting a dog for its residents in Wednesday’s paper and online.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.