A paws-itive approach to literacy

When it comes to reading, youngsters in Hillsburgh have the chance to put their best paws forward.

A new program. Paws for Literacy, was initiated this year, and it had a repeat performance on April 24.

It seems these days a dog’s life includes a good book.

Jim Tsitanidis explained this was the second event, sponsored jointly through Spirit Ridge K9 Training and Rescue, a privately operated dog rescue facility, and the Hills­burgh branch of the Well­ington County public library.

He said the dogs “are a good conduit for those learning to read because dogs are non-judgmental.

“They don’t care if you read too fast or too slow, or if occasionally you have trouble with a word or two.”

He selected a roster of dogs for the program – a mix of those at a shelter and clients dogs.

“They are all  pre-screened for the task,” Tsitanidis said.

He said half of the dogs he has rescued are dogs no one wanted.

“Now those same dogs are doing community work as literary assistance dogs.”

Originally, Tsitanidis asked if the library could be used to host the literacy event. “It was such a hit on its first run on Jan. 25 we wanted to do it again.”

The plan now, is to hold similar events every three months or so.

“It’s all for the children and getting them to fall back in love with reading and literacy . . . the dogs just make that happen so much easier.”

Paws for Literacy is an event whose main objective is to encourage and promote the joy and benefits of reading amongst children in our community.

He said, “I need not tell you how troubling it is that literacy holds a far inferior place in most children’s minds and hearts compared to other more appealing-to-children activities.”

“Spirit Ridge K9 Training & Rescue in partnership with the wonderful staff at the Hillsburgh library, have created a non-profit, completely volunteer community initiative to deal with this issue. We have and are using a pre-selected group of handlers with their dogs who – on specific, pre-announced dates, gather at the Hillsburgh library branch to create a non threatening, en­couraging and motivating environment for children to become excited to read to their new friends.”

Tsitanidis said, “the results are literally magical.” For more information on the program, contact the Hills­burgh branch of the Wellington County Public Library or Jim Tsitanidis at spiritridge­@­xplor­net.com