Derrick Lenzi, a first-grader at Trinity North Elementary, made an unlikely friend at school recently. As Lenzi leaned over Zeno, a 130-pound German rottweiler, the dog rolled on his back and stuck out his tongue.
A little too far.
Lenzi gasped, wiping the friendly slobber from his face. “He’s a big dog,” he said, excited by the unconventional class activity.
Zeno was one of five certified therapy dogs brought to the Canton Township school for a reading program called “Tail Waggin’ Tutors.” The program, offered through Therapy Dogs International, encourages children to read books of their choosing to the dogs.
In addition to Zeno, the school’s library hosted a Havanese named Sonic, and a labradoodle named Sidney (after Sidney Crosby). Ike, a hairless Chinese crested, wore pajamas decorated with pirates and palm trees to keep warm. Also at the school was Fly, a border collie.
“Every dog is cute,” said Jack Pan, 7, a second-grader.
Tyler Hulbert, 7, also in second grade, said he enjoyed reading to the friendly furries.
“The don’t, um, tell you that you’re reading too bad, and they also listen,” Hulbert said.
Encouraging children to read in a fun, nonthreatening environment is what Tail Waggin’ Tutors is all about. The program is designed to motivate and inspire young children who may feel self-conscious reading aloud in class.
“Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant,” reads TDI’s website.
“There’s nobody there critiquing them,” said Linda Oros, reading specialist at the elementary school. “The whole thing is to get the kids into reading and to love reading and just to practice.”
Sandy Golomb, Ike’s owner, said she has never seen a student refuse to read to the dogs. Many students have even started reading to their pets at home.
The reading program has been held several times this year, with different groups of children participating each time.
“We have new faces every week,” said Principal Beth Tully. “We love it, we’re looking forward to continuing it and we’re looking forward to more dogs.”