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Dogs Make Great Reading Buddies

Emma Strauss, 8, sat on the floor of Westport Library’s McManus Room, reading to her companion while his head rested in her lap. The Whippet, Brasil, had only one purpose being there: to help build reading confidence.

Paige Strauss, 38, and her daughters, Emma and Hannah, had waited quietly for the girls' turn to read. Emma held a copy of “Fox in Socks” while Hannah was ready to dive into a copy of “Go, Dog, Go!”

The “Reading to Rover “program provides kids with a nonjudgmental partner. The dogs lie there peacefully while the children read aloud. Often a canine head will make its way to nestle in a lap.

“It's a nice, non-intimidating environment. This is the first town I've heard of that does this. I would have loved it when I was a kid,” said Paige. There are similar programs in other communities, including Norwalk, but the concept is new enough that Paige had not heard.

Both girls participated in “Reading to Rover” back in February, and were eager to return. Emma was paired up with Brasil both times. He is part of the Stamford Hospital “Healing Hounds” program and will be featured in an upcoming Diane Sawyer special about therapy dogs.

Hannah read to a large black dog named Onyx, who would raise her head protectively if anyone attempted to interrupt the reading. “It's fun, you get to meet the dogs,” said Hannah, who felt like her companion was listening to her read.

Librarian Lynne Perrigo said she is holding two more “Reading to Rover” sessions this summer, on July 21 and July28. Parents must register and make an appointment for a time slot, of which there are few remaining.

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