EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Public Library has teamed up with the non-profit PAAWS (People and Animals Who Serve) to help make man’s best friend a great reading companion for kids.
Second grader Kirsti Keppo is learning how to read novels with help from Tucker, an 8-year-old Labrador.
“Matilda’s parents owned a nice house with three bedrooms upstairs, while on the ground floor there was a dining room,” read Keppo allowed at the Sheldon Public Library on Saturday.
Tucker is a reading education assistance dog (READ) for PAAWS. And on weekends he volunteers at various libraries in the Eugene and Springfield area for a program called Dog Tale Time.
Kirsti’s dad Paul Keppo said he has been taking his daughter to the program since before she could read.
“And she would come in and look like she was really reading,” said Keppo near the story time carpet. “But she had really must memorized it.”
“I really like it,” said Kirsti while Tucker continued to listened to other kid readers on the carpet.
Paul Keppo said the Dog Tale Time is the perfect motivator for Kirsti.
“Kids love dogs,” said Keppo, “and so they’re almost like little babies for them, and they just love to try and make them feel good.”
“And she’s really done well in reading,” he added. “It’s amazing to watch how she’s progressed. This year, in particular, she’s jumped up from picture books to these chapter books.”
But the kids aren’t the only ones having a good time.
“Tucker, do you like it when the kids read to you?” I asked Tucker. He paused, then raised his paw for a shake
“I think that’s a yes. Good boy,” I said to him.
PAAWS trainer Pam Weill said Tucker can hardly contain himself at home when he figures out it’s the weekend and about to be Dog Tale Time.
“Hurry up mom, hurry up,” said Weill, interpreting Tucker’s movements, “and he is so excited to come. Yea, he likes it.”
Weill also said that Tucker isn’t just pretending to listen to the kids. She said she believes that he actually gets into the story.
“There are times when during certain books,” Weill said, “he will not look, and we just assume that he must be scared of it because he just won’t look.”
She said he gets scared when kids read books about cats and dinosaurs.
“And he turns his back and will not look at it,” she added. “So, the kids get a kick out of the fact that he’s scared of certain books and certain animals.”
But more than lending an ear, or a quick lick, Weill said Tucker really makes a difference.
“I was a shy reader when I was young,” she said. “And so knowing that they can come to a place where they’re not going to be criticized and just learnt to be confident is really great.”
The program is in its ninth year of operation. So far, PAAWS has held more than 2,000 READ sessions in the Eugene and Springfield area. READ dogs are also certified therapy dogs and volunteer at retirement homes when kids are in school.