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Tail Waggin’ Tutors: Students get helping ‘paw’ in learning to read

Ty listens with interest as Addie Wilson reads aloud from “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”  Jonesborough Library assistant Kayla Byrd stands by, ready to help.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

[email protected]

They don’t call them Man’s Best Friend for nothing. In this case, these two canines could be called Readers’ Best Friend.

Therapy Dog International’s “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” program has two helpful pups that visited the Jonesborough Library twice in January to assist children that needed help with their reading skills.   

Ty is an  8-year-old terrier mix that visits the library on Fridays while Jackie, a black lab, comes on Tuesdays.

The dogs are not judgmental towards the readers, staff say, and instill a sense of calm and confidence in those who are reluctant readers. “Coming here helps them associate reading with something fun” said Ty’s owner and library assistant Kayla Byrd said.

The program is open to anyone, but is mainly aimed towards  children. Some of the current children involved are within the autism spectrum, while there have been adults with dyslexia who attend as well. 

Kayla Byrd and Addie Wilson, 6, snuggle with Ty after reading.

“It’s targeted towards kids who are starting to read or are struggling with reading through middle school, but I don’t put an age limit on it. 

“Anybody who wants to come read can come read with Ty” Byrd said.

Byrd has been a library assistant for almost one year and adopted Ty from an animal shelter.  She said it took almost a year to train him  from beginner level to a therapy dog.  While he has visited the hospital, the main location for the program is the Jonesborough Library.  “Its kind of fun on his end too. The kids come and get to play with him and read and it’s relaxing for everybody” she said.

As much fun as the kids have reading and playing with Ty the benefit to their reading skills is clear to Byrd.  “I’ve actually had several parents tell me that at school their actual reading scores are improving just from coming here on a consistent basis” she said. “(It’s associating it with fun or something better than a stressful experience for them.”

Addie Wilson, a 6-year-old Jonesborough resident, spent her time with 

Ty reading Dr. Seuss’s “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”.  After finishing the book Ty congratulated her with a high five and then performed a few nifty tricks before Addie’s session was over.

Anyone interested in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program is required to register and the 15 minute sessions are limited.  Registration is at the Jonesborough Library and the phone number is (423) 753-1800.  Byrd  said that anyone can call and, if there are openings available, they will schedule a session.