I came across information about the Georgia READing Paws program at Beechwood Trails Pet Lodge when Drew and Handy stayed for a few days last year. In January, I signed up to take the people training part of the class.
The mission of READing Paws is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of nationally registered therapy animal-owner/handler teams as literacy mentors.
READing Paws utilizes nationally registered animal-owner/handler Therapy Teams who volunteer to go to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. The utilization of registered therapy teams is the foundation of READing Paws, in order to ensure that the animals have been trained and tested for health and safety, appropriate skills and temperament, and have been insured for liability.
Joan Wakeling, a fellow SEGC member and fantastic quilting artist, has agreed to make a special quilt for Drew and the children to read on. The quilt will define the learning boundaries during the reading sessions where Drew, the child and I will sit together going through a book. I can't wait to see how it turns out! Drew agreed to 'pretend' he was interested in reading - about Greyhounds of course as you can see from his photo.
Drew has his AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, but needs to get certified as a therapy dog for this mission, so he is in the process of being tested by Therapy Dogs, Inc. Once that is completed, then Intermountain Therapy Animals will certify him as well without additional testing. The next step is a shadowing visit with a team that is performing reading at a school, library or bookstore in the community. Once that is checked off, we can start a therapy session at a school or library near where we live. At my training session in January, there were only 24 teams in the state of Georgia performing this community service. READing Paws hopes to add 55 more teams this year. Our class had 10 participants, and a fellow SEGC member, Paula Snell and her whippet Scout are participating in the shadowing next weekend. Scout is not only a Delta Society certified therapy dog, he also a master at agility, obedience and rally.
There is a waiting list of schools and libraries in central Georgia that want this program for their young readers. Will you consider giving some of your time to make a difference in the life of a child?
"It's not what's in front of you that blocks your way, it's what's inside of you that holds you back" ~ Robin Williams as Mork cir. 1980.