At Freeland Library, Ryalyn Rook reads from the cover of “Leatherback Blues,” a book about sea turtles, to Kiah and her owner, Connie Lloyd. The Reading with Rover program trains dogs to be a calming, friendly presence and can give confidence to kids to help improve reading skills. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

At Freeland Library, Ryalyn Rook reads from the cover of “Leatherback Blues,” a book about sea turtles, to Kiah and her owner, Connie Lloyd. The Reading with Rover program trains dogs to be a calming, friendly presence and can give confidence to kids to help improve reading skills. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Calling all dogs to sniff out ‘Reading with Rover’

Evaluation is prerequisite to therapy training class

Could your canine be clever enough to read?

Or at least disciplined enough to sit still and look cute as a kid reads to him or her?

The Reading with Rover program is offering evaluations from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, April 25 at the M-Bar-C-Ranch in Freeland. The 20-minute evaluation costs $10 and requires preregistration.

Reading with Rover is a volunteer therapy dog program which started out as a community-based literacy program in schools and libraries of the Puget Sound area. It trains dogs to be a calming, friendly presence as children read books out loud to them.

It may help children overcome the anxiety of reading in class and give confidence to help improve reading skills, said local organizer LouAnn Hepp.

The program also provides sessions of comfort at local hospitals, assisted living homes and rehabilitation facilities. “It’s also really popular on college campuses as a stress reliever during exam time,” Hepp said.

Dogs must have basic obedience skills, not be aggressive and be restrained on a 6-foot leash during the April 25 screening.

An evaluation determines the readiness for the dog and owner to enter the Animal Therapy Team Prep Class. The next session of classes is May 9-23 on Thursday evenings. The class is offered through South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District and costs $150.

Hepp and her therapy dog, Ruby, are regular visitors to South Whidbey Elementary School. Hepp also helps organize Whidbey Island’s Reading with Rover training programs and monthly visits to local libraries. Teams that have completed the therapy class must complete 12 hours of supervised readings at libraries before undergoing a certification exam.

Trained Rover dogs and their owners appear from 5 to 6 p.m. at Langley Library on the second Wednesday of the month and at Freeland Library 5 to 6 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

The program may expand north; dog owners from all over the island are encouraged to apply.

To register for the April 25 evaluation, contact South Whidbey Parks and Recreation at programs@whidbey.com, call 360-221-6788 or see http://swparks.org/event/reading-rover-therapy-dogs/

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