'Read to the Dogs' is designed to boost young readers' confidence

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KATHY LOTER - Nixon the yellow Lab gets in his first practice for the new Read to the Dogs program at the Lake Oswego Public Library. Helping him out is 5-year-old Kiera Kuehn.“Nixon’s the one,” as far as Kathy Loter is concerned.

Loter coordinates the “Read to the Dogs” program for DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, where dogs and their handlers are trained and certified to help young children become more confident readers. She’s such a believer in the benefits of the program that she has already formed 26 teams in the Lake Oswego area, and she expects to have 75 to 80 teams by the end of this year.

But when “Read to the Dogs” debuts at the Lake Oswego Public Library on June 17, it’s Nixon, a 2-year-old yellow Lab, who’ll be sitting — or lying down — and listening while children read books to him.

“Nixon is very friendly and calm and everything a Lab should be,” said Corinna Campbell-Sack, Nixon’s owner. “He likes school-age children. Labs are very perceptive, flexible and predictable, and they’re playful when they’re not working. When he works, he’s working. Labs are trained not to be distracted by other dogs.”

Nixon’s duties will be simple. He will listen while a child reads a book to him. Certainly, there will be time when Nixon will stretch out and go to sleep, but most of the time he will look focused and interested. He will not be given a pop quiz after the reading is finished. Instead, Campbell-Sack will give him dog treats for a job well done.

And the benefits of a job well done, Loter said, are obvious.

“When a kid reads to a dog, they will become confident,” Loter said. “It will open them up. The dog becomes the adult.”

Only better.

“The dog isn’t judgmental,” said Campbell-Sack, who has long had her dogs do therapy work. “They’re not bored. They’re not correcting the child.”

“One time, a dog put his paw on the book when the child was finished reading,” Loter said.

DoveLewis started the “Read to the Dogs” program three years ago because it helps children with self-esteem issues who are often self-conscious when reading aloud to classmates. By reading to a dog, a child can relax and enjoy the experience of reading, instead of dreading it.

Campbell-Sack’s own granddaughter is an excellent example of why the “Read to the Dogs” program has been successful.

“I practiced with my granddaughter, who is in the second grade,” Campbell-Sack said. “It went great. She’s a good reader, but she didn’t have confidence.”

The is the first time that a such a program has been held at Lake Oswego Public Library, and children’s librarian Jackie Rose is very happy about it, even though she is allergic to dogs.

“I think this program is going to be popular,” Rose said. “I want it to encourage beginning readers to practice over the summer.

“Reading to a dog is a fun way to do that.”

Why is Nixon such a good candidate to be the pioneer of this program?

“The great thing about therapy dogs is they don’t know what’s going on,” Loter said. “They’re happy when they go in, and happy when they go out.”

The summer program will run for eight weeks, beginning Tuesday, June 17, from 3 to 4 p.m.

For more about DoveLewis programs and Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams, go to or call 503-228-7281. The Lake Oswego Public Library is located at 706 Fourth Street.

For more information, call 503-636-7628.

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