"Dogs are magic", says Denise Bolduc, a licensed R.E.A.D. Instructor.
R.E.A.D. stands for Reading Education Assistance Dogs. I've been seeing sign-ups for R.E.A.D. sessions at book stores I frequent and the library and wondered about the growing interest. Denise, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist by profession, is a volunteer literacy mentor for R.E.A.D. She, along with her five year old pugs, Sailor and Scarlett, have quite a packed schedule. They are at Jack and Allies bookstore in Vernon several times a month and visit various libraries. Denise and one or both of her dogs also go monthly to the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. "This activity started several years ago when it was called Saint Joseph College and began as stress relief during midterms and finals and due to its popularity, it is now a weekly event" Denise tells me. In fact, she's headed there next week. Word spread and now Denise is also invited to help students at Bugbee School in West Hartford. "Studies show test scores... even math skills improve with the help of R.E.A.D." Denise explained to me that she herself would get nervous reading in front of the class when she was younger. Kids who read to a R.E.A.D. tend to focus on the dog and be less intimidated than if they were to read to their peers. Denise works with teachers to determine which students might need some help sounding out words or with comprehension, but she says it's very important they don't single out children. Any student is eligible, they just allow more time for those who need it, sometimes by picking names out of a hat to make it fun.
While Denise has pugs, R.E.A.D. can be any breed, any size, "their temperament is most important since children can be unpredictable." Both her pugs are Allan's Angels Therapy dogs, one of two CT chapters of The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. Sailor passed her test in 2011, Scarlett in 2013. The team is insured to keep both the dogs and the people who visit them safe. Denise says the process is ongoing. Not only did they all undergo 12 weeks of training, they are tested and re-evaluated yearly.
If you'd like more information about R.E.A.D. or getting certified, click here. Denise will be at Jack and Allie's next on March 11th, check out their website here for more information on setting up a session.