By Dedra Cordle
Two humans may own Read It Again Books and Gifts, but every patron knows that it is Lucy the cat who really runs the place.
Each day when the store is open, Lucy makes herself at home on the floor, on the windowsill, on book piles, and, on occasion, in the cupboard under the stairs when she needs a timeout.
Lucy is the star amongst stars at the bookstore, but lately she has been allowing other furry critters to shine.
Twice a week, a dog or two, or three or four, will descend upon the store and patiently wait for children to arrive. Unlike Lucy, they want someone to pay attention to them and when they find their companion, they help pick out a book, find a quiet room and snuggle up and read.
But these are not just ordinary dogs, they are certified therapy dogs and they are enthusiastic participants in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program that recently began at the bookstore.
“Jill (Walter) brought the program to my attention a few weeks ago,” said Lora Baker, one of the owners of Read It Again Books and Gifts. “I thought, ‘I love dogs, I love reading and I love kids’ so it just made a whole lot of sense to have it here.”
Though the Tail Waggin’ Tutors has only been up and running at the bookstore since August, it is already a hit with children and their parents.
Alicia Brooks said she has been bringing her son Andrew, a second grader at Buckeye Woods Elementary, to the tutoring session because he loves reading to anyone and anything. He often tries reading to his own dog Woody, but that seldom goes as planned.
“Woody is a little older, so he doesn’t pay much attention,” she said. “But with the dogs here, they are much more attentive to Andrew and his needs.”
Tory Price said he brought his daughter Kora to Tail Waggin’ Tutors so she could practice her burgeoning reading skills.
“I think she’ll benefit from the program because it will give her a new outlet for reading and this (interaction with the dogs) will be another encouragement for it.”
Kora, who is a first grader at Bolton Crossing Elementary, said she enjoyed participating in the program.
“I really liked reading to Macy,” she said.
It was apparent from the variety of expressions that graced her sweet face during the reading hour that Macy liked hearing from her too.
Unlike most of the dogs who have taken on multiple tutoring sessions, this was Macy’s first time working in this capacity. Owner and handler Karen Esposito said they are both looking forward to participating in future tutoring sessions.
Jill Walter, who works part-time at the bookstore, said not only is this program designed for children of all reading levels, but it also provides a safe place for kids to practice reading out loud.
“Dogs are non-judgmental,” she said. “They’re not going to criticize or tease if a word is wrong.”
She said they are just there to provide gentle encouragement and a friendly face for children who want to become more confident as they learn how to read.
For information about how to sign up with the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program, visit Read It Again Books and Gifts on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/readitagainingc) or go to their website at www.readitagaingc.com.