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Tales to Tails


Children read to dogs as part of library program

It’s 3:30 Wednesday afternoon in the children’s department at West Linn Public Library. The afterschool energy level is picking up with kids working on homework projects and small children fussing as the dinner hour approaches. One corner of the room is calm and peaceful — a child is reading aloud to a dog while the dog’s handler looks on. Wait — a child is reading to ... a dog?

Welcome to Tales to Tails, a program designed to give children the opportunity to improve their reading skills by reading to a canine friend. Tales to Tails is in its fifth year at West Linn Public Library and now includes four compassionate dogs and their equally empathetic handlers.

According to Barbara Miller, Caterina’s handler and Tales to Tails co-founder, “We observed other libraries and then drafted what would work in West Linn. We started with Caterina and me. The kids love reading to a dog — some just need to practice reading out loud and others are glad to be close to a dog as they do not have one at home. We have 4-year-olds who are accomplished readers and we have 17-year-olds who are ‘challenged’ and reading at an elementary level.”

by: SUBMITTED - Bodeby: SUBMITTED - Caterinaby: SUBMITTED - Ellaby: SUBMITTED - Ozzie

Eight-year-old Winston described his recent experience reading to Caterina: “It was cozy and lovely — she had super-soft ears.” Winston’s mother appreciated Barbara Miller’s willingness to let Winston set the pace for reading to Caterina.

Pamela Peet, Ella Jane’s handler, said, “I have some families at the library that come every time Ella Jane and I are there just so they can spend time with her. I have some children that thank Ella Jane by making her homemade comic books and they have brought her treats! I’ve had children who are nervous to read to me, but they read to Ella Jane with great accomplishment.”

Eleven-year-old Angelina agrees. “The dogs don’t care if you mispronounce a word or aren’t sure of its meaning. It’s easy to feel comfortable with them because they just don’t do criticism, just wags of their tails.”

The Tales to Tails team is rounded out by Bode and his handler, Kristen Ramsey; and Ozzie, with Charles Herring. West Linn dad Mark Fearing commented on his daughter’s experience reading to Bode: “My 6-year-old loves reading and, like many 6-year-olds, loves dogs. It couldn’t have been better! She’s even read to our dogs at home a few times since.”

Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) provides a course for certification for dogs and their handlers. This involves class time and course work as well as a final assessment of the handler and the dog. Each dog must have all of its inoculations and be a social complement with the handler. Once dog-handler teams have been certified, Pet Partners provides liability insurance while they are doing visits.

Tales to Tails takes place Wednesdays and Thursdays at the library from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Reservations are necessary. Sign up for a 20-minute time slot by calling 503-656-7853, ext. 4. Participants must be able to read or learning to read.