California Educator

April 2015

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Page 43 of 59

Gigi Gopen reads with the help of Catie (the dog) as teacher Emily Sanders listens in Manhatten Beach. Linda Guill says hello to a reading dog in her Redding classroom. What has transformed Gigi from a reluctant reader to an enthusiastic one? The answer is Catie, a Portuguese water dog sitting quietly by her side. The black and white canine is the perfect audience for a beginning reader. That's because Catie listens. She doesn't judge. She is soft, fluffy and cud- dly. And Catie is so patient, she can hear children read about pigs again and again, without losing any interest whatsoever. Catie listens even when she is napping like Pig, the protagonist in the book by Ethan Long. Catie is part of a new breed of canines who are pro- fessional "reading dogs." They are specially trained and must pass strict tests to ensure they will be calm, patient and reassuring to youngsters who sometimes struggle to get their words right. The dogs are brought to schools by dedicated volunteers like Gwen Brock, who owns Catie and fellow reading dog Brinkley, also a Portuguese breed. Brock is a member of READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), an organization with the mission of enhancing children's love of reading through the use of therapy animals. Thanks in part to visits from Brock's dogs, children like Gigi are becoming confident readers, relates kinder- garten teacher Emily Sanders, Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association (MBUTA). "Animals can be so comforting," she explains. "Some- thing about them — and reading to them — just makes everyone feel good." Brock agrees. "It's a win-win-win situation," she says. "The teacher wins. The students win. We volunteers win. And it doesn't cost anything." For more information on the READ program or to find a reading dog near you, visit Go Online @ P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y S C O T T B U S C H M A N Has reading gone to the DOGS? K I N D E R G A R T N E R G I G I G O P E N U S E D T O B E C O M E A N X I O U S when asked to read simple words aloud in class. But today, sit- ting on the floor of the Pacific Elementary School library in Manhattan Beach, she reads in a cheery, confident voice. She eagerly turns the pages of Pig Has a Plan, a children's book about a swine who just wants to sleep all day. by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Education trends Learning 42

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