Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 3, 2014

Dogs help guide young readers

TRAVERSE CITY — CeCe, Stella and Chaz enjoy a good book as much as anyone, and they don’t mind a bit if the reader takes a while to sound out the words.

The three are certified therapy dogs whose jobs are to be good listening companions while young readers work on their read-aloud skills during the Traverse Area District Library’s new Tell-A-Tail program.

“The program provides a positive, nonjudgmental and fun way for children to build their fluency and their confidence,” said the library’s Youth Services Coordinator Cathy Lancaster, who brought the Tell-A-Tail program with her from the Flint Public Library where she worked prior to moving to Traverse City. “Here, they don’t have the whole class looking at them while they practice reading. It’s just them and a dog.”

Lancaster said her black English Labrador retriever, Stella, was a popular part of the Flint library’s reading program, and just as much as much a magnet for children like Lindsey Greenfelder, 8, during TADL’s first read-aloud session on Jan. 17. Lindsey chose one in the series of “Bad Kitty” books by Nick Bruel to read to Stella as her mother Tracy Greenfelder looked on.

“She loves to read,” Greenfelder said. “When she gets any free time at school, she always chooses reading.”

Both Stella and Bette Wattles Williams’ 8-year-old yellow lab-golden retriever mix, CeCe, were adopted from the Leader Dog School for the Blind in Rochester Hills.

“The dog’s job is to be calm,” Wattles Williams said while watching children gravitate to CeCe for their chance to read. “CeCe was trained as a guide dog and went through retraining to be certified by Therapy Dogs International. She visits nursing homes and hospitals along with being part of the Tell-A-Tail program,” she said.

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