Erma the ‘READing’ dog is all ears to help children at the Thompson Free Library

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Over the summer months children visiting the Thompson Free Library on Wednesday afternoons will have the opportunity to get more comfortable and confident with their word skills thanks to “READing with Erma.”

“Erma is a six-year-old German shorthaired pointer,” said April Taylor, Erma’s handler who is a resident of Lakeland, Fla. and summers in Sebec, on July 11 before the start of the second weekly session. Taylor said Erma is registered with Therapy Dogs, Inc. and she is a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ). Founded by Intermountain Therapy Dog in Utah, READ handlers and their registered therapy dogs go through testing and continuing education in order to provide the free service to children in the community.

“What I have done is gone into schools in Florida with Erma for students who having trouble reading, here in the library she will be here for anyone who wants to read to her,” Taylor said. “She is non-judgmental, she doesn’t correct.”

READing with Erma is designed to help children increase their self-confidence while reading aloud. Reading to the pet increases participant’s interest in books and potentially their reading ability.

“I have seen kids go from reading picture books to a parts of a novel in eight weeks,” Taylor said. “It’s lots of fun and Erma loves it.”

Reading with Erma starts at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Thompson Free Library. Participants will be able to choose a book to read to the German shorthaired pointer for 15 to 20 minutes. Erma is leashed but she will lay or sit with the young reader on a cushioned dog bed. If needed, Taylor will use prompts and help the child explain something in the text Erma may not understand.

Taylor believes Erma is the first reading dog to come to the Thompson Free Library. “I’m going to continue until September, until schools starts,” she said. Taylor said READING with Erma lasts for about an hour and half to two hours each Wednesday, providing time slots for as many as eight children to sign up.

Photo courtesy of Tom Lyford/Thompson Free Library
A YOUNG READER’S BEST FRIEND — Children can sign up to read to Erma, a six-year-old German shorthaired pointer pictured with her handler April Taylor and a new friend, on Wednesday afternoons at the Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft. The READing with Erma program enables participants to get more comfortable and confident with their word skills as they read aloud to the non-judgmental, non-correcting dog.

Photo courtesy of April Taylor
LOTS OF DOG EARED PAGES — Erma is a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ), as she and her handler April Taylor both have gone through training to assist children working on their reading skills. Young readers can sign up for READing with Erma on Wednesday afternoons at the Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft.

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