PITTSTON — Children at the Pittston Memorial Library got to practice their reading skills in front of a captive audience: a Shetland Sheepdog and a collie mix.
Angie and Violet, handled by Helene Skopek-Krygier and Maria Pino, respectively, are therapy dogs with the non-profit Pleasure of Your Company Therapy Dogs from the Lehigh Valley area. But these pettable playmates aren’t just ordinary therapy dogs. In addition to visiting traditional venues like nursing homes, Angie and Violet are reading dogs, meaning they are calm, attentive, and quiet around children so the children may practice reading in front of a non-judgmental audience.
Skopek-Krygier is a veteran therapy dog handler.
“Angie has been a therapy dog since she was one, and she’s been a reading dog since then, too,” she said. “Violet is a collie mix. She’s one of our newest dogs. She’s a therapy dog and a reading dog in training. Maria still has to take the workshop to be certified, but she is doing wonderfully. The kids love her.”
Skopek-Krygier went on to explain how Angie helps young readers.
“Dogs can’t read for themselves, so the children are willing to read to them. They also lower blood pressure. Children have a love for dogs, so they want to do anything for the dogs. You would be amazed how many children will not read for parents but will come and read for the dogs,” she continued.
“If a child isn’t reading by the third grade, they feel that the child is going to have major problems reading in the future. We kind of target the younger children.”
Pleasure for Your Company has about 70 teams, only some of which are reading dogs. Skopek-Krygier noted she is always looking for more teams.
“The only requirements is that your dog is at least 1 year old and up-to-date on vaccines. Breed or size does not matter. What we really look for is temperament,” she explained.
“We’re really blessed to have these dogs.”
The program, called Furry Tails Reading Partners, visits the Pittston library the second Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. It visits other Wyoming Valley libraries throughout the month, and the therapy dogs visit a variety of local venues such as colleges.
For more information on becoming a reading dog handler, visit pyocdogs.org.