- Special Sections
- Public Notices
North Hardin High School had some furry visitors Friday.
Harper, a handicapped German shepherd mix, and Grendel, an American bulldog, were on hand to help demonstrate the benefits of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, which uses canines to attract children to reading.
Lisa Ramsey, who teaches nonverbal special needs students American Sign Language at North Hardin, approached the school about the opportunity to perform a demonstration, which gained the attention of teacher Rachel Wilson.
Wilson in turn opened up her small animals technology class to host a demonstration of the program, which Ramsey hopes to see implemented at the Hardin County Public Library.Library Director Rene Hutcheson, who was in attendance, said the program already has been successfully implemented in several libraries around the state and she hopes to see it in Hardin County by summer.
In essence, children who sign up will read to an assigned dog and develop a relationship with the animal. The goal of R.E.A.D. is to improve the literacy level of the child and develop within them a love for reading.
Hutcheson said kids start facing a number of distractions at a certain age, from sports to dating, and the program could be one way to refocus their attention and turn them on to reading.
Unlike service dogs, which often assist the blind and deaf, the program uses therapy dogs, which receive certification based on a mastery of obedience and socialization skills, said Laura Nordan, Ramsey’s sister and owner of Grendel. Once certified, the dogs interact with children and the elderly at schools, nursing homes and hospitals. Service dogs are allowed by law to enter areas with their owners while therapy dogs and their owners must seek permission before entering a facility, Nordan added.
Hutcheson said she expects the library’s board will need to implement a new policy to start offering the program. She also said she wants to talk to library directors who have successfully started the program to learn their methods.
“There’s no sense in recreating the wheel,” she said.
Nordan assured the students the dogs were gentle, joking about Grendel’s lazy disposition and docile nature.
“Chihuahuas take things from him,” she said with a smile.
Nordan has fostered more than 60 dogs from rescue shelters over the years, many of which have been certified therapy dogs. Harper is in training to receive certification through Pawsability Unleashed, a program founded by Liz Norris.
Nordan said she takes the dogs most turn away because of scars or debilitating injuries, but she does not discriminate because the dogs need a home and have such unique personalities.
“You want the dogs to obey you out of respect rather than fear,” she told one of the classes.
Wilson said she invited the sisters to demonstrate to her classes because some of her students have expressed desires to be veterinarians. She said she wants to show students alternative ways to work with animals to broaden their perspective.
Ramsey said she is proud of her sister and was impressed by the R.E.A.D. program after she saw it in action.
“If kids learn to read and love to read; hey man, the future is theirs,” Ramsey said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 email@example.com