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March 29, 2011 > Even dogs can enjoy a great story!

Even dogs can enjoy a great story!

Story and Photo submitted by Eileen McDonald

The smiles on the boys' faces told the story. Grinning from ear to ear, two young students from Grimmer Elementary School in Fremont attended a special event at the Fremont Main Library, "Read-To-A-Dog" with their "mentor grandmas" Eileen McDonald and Linda Mapes.

After sharing a large pepperoni pizza at Mountain Mike's, sixth grader Brandon Aguilar and fifth grader Esteban Estrada headed for the library early enough to look for a book to read to their assigned dog. There was even extra time for the boys to use the computers, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Immediately after Mapes helped them sign in, they began playing a zombie attack game. About fifteen minutes later the dogs began arriving on leashes guided by their owners. Suddenly, the zombies were not as important as the parade of dogs of various sizes and colors caught their interest.

The Read-To-A-Dog program is held monthly at the library in the Children's Room. Volunteers from the Ohlone Humane Society bring their trained assisted therapy dogs one evening a month to interact with children of all ages. Reading sessions last for fifteen minutes from 6:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m., on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Tickets are given out free of charge beginning at 6:15 p.m. and the opportunity is limited by the number of dogs who attend.

Brandon and Esteban chose to read to the same dog. As Brandon read his book, "Officer Bickle Meets Gloria," which he chose from a pre-selected assortment of books recommended by the Children's Librarian, Esteban stroked the Golden Retriever's soft coat. It was obvious that the dog, called Darcy, was enjoying all of the attention. When Brandon finished his story, making a point of pointing out the illustrations to Darcy, Esteban began reading his book, "Martha Speaks." Brandon, ready to continue reading, took off toward another little dog, Bagel, who was without a child reader. He quickly bonded with that dog, too.

All too soon the Librarian's voice was heard, "Time to return your books so the next group of readers can come in." Brandon and Esteban each gave their dog a farewell pat and returned the books to the shelf. As they headed for the car, with a look of disappointment on their faces, they asked in unison if they could come back next month. The two "mentor grandmas" smiled at one another as both knew this had been a special experience for the boys.

Livia Thomas has taught both boys and is excited for their progress. She is the Title I Specialist at Grimmer Elementary School as well as the Alameda County Teacher of the Year.

This year, Esteban and Brandon attend John Santonastaso's RTI (Response to Intervention) class at the school. Thomas says, "He's really been a great male role model for both boys." Santonastaso had also read both books several times to the kids in class, so they boys were familiar with and enjoyed the books they read to Darcy.

"At school, other students look up to Brandon because he inspires them to strive for academic excellence," explains Thomas. "Once very shy and rarely talking in class, now Brandon loves researching interesting subjects and sharing his learning with his classmates. In fact, he involves his whole family in creating these 'extra' projects at home before bringing them to school. I'm sure you'll find him on the computer this week researching guide dogs! Brandon's joy of learning is as contagious as his smile!"

Thomas adds, "Esteban walks with confidence now when you see him at school. He, too, was quiet and shy in class, but has discovered his talent as a natural storyteller. With his big smile and quick wit, Esteban may tell you about the chapter book that he's reading or how he and his friends have helped each other become successful at school. His parents are very proud of him and support his hard work at school. Esteban has truly discovered that learning is lifelong and the key to a better life."

For more information on the Read-To-A-Dog program contact the Fremont Main Library Children's Desk at (510) 745-1421. Upcoming dates are April 26, May 24, June 28, July 26, August 23, September 27, and October 25.

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