Cold Noses, Warm Hearts: Kids read to dogs to improve literacy skills

Connecticut Families

Six-year-old Katie is working hard, sounding out words, as she reads a Snoopy book.  And she’s not alone.  She has a unique reading buddy with a soothing demeanor and a beautiful coat.  Her name is Ella and she’s a calm sheltie. 

“Children come in and read to the dog to encourage their love and joy for reading because when you read to a dog, they don’t evaluate.  They don’t judge, they’re just very happy,” says Lois Huntley, Ella’s owner.

The ten pound canine – who is 8-years-old – is a Reading Education Assistance Dog.  She and Huntley volunteer for an organization called Cold Noses, Warm Hearts which trains therapy dogs for a variety of occasions. 

“We do hospice volunteer in different facilities and homes.  We go to UCONN Avery Point twice a year for final exams where the kids are studying and they can come over pet the dog and take a break,” explains Huntley.

“This is at least my third time reading to Ella,” says 7-year-old Grace O’Brien, who loves the friendship and comfort that a cozy companion provides.  “I don’t have a pet at home, so, it makes me happy to see pets when I don’t have one.”

Parents appreciate the fun yet peaceful setting at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook. 

“RIley likes to read everything.  She’s a total book worm which I think is great,” says Alyssa Merrifield of Niantic, as she holds her small daughter on her lap.  “We started reading at a very young age with her.”

Ella benefits from the program too. 

“She’s pretty sure that she’s a princess and that she deserves all the attention she gets,” says Huntley with a smile.

It’s a warm, giving exchange that revolves around patience, support, learning and love. 

“Just feeling that fur, stroking that fur is a calming thing for people,” says Huntley.  “It’s a marvelous thing – everyone feels good.”

Ella will be back, sharing her talents at the Acton Public Library on Saturday, March 23rd.

Click here for more information about Cold Noses, Warm Hearts.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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