Dog lends ears to reading program

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Chris Beach, left, and Kona, middle, listen as Jake Jackson reads a Spiderman book Wednesday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library. Beach and Kona listen and help children read for two hours every Wednesday.

Liliana Castillo

Kona, a large Burnese mountain dog, sits patiently listening as the children he towers over read books to him.

Kona is a certified therapy dog who lends a non-judgmental ear to any child. His owner Clovis resident Chris Beach, 41, said she and Kona got involved in the Tailwagging Tutors program in February at her husband’s last assignment in Texas. When the family was relocated to Cannon Air Force Base and Clovis, she wanted to continue.

Beach and Kona spend two hours every Wednesday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library, Kona listening and Beach helping children read.

“This is for kids who are nervous about reading out loud,” Beach said. “It gives them self confidence. The dog doesn’t judge them.”

Beach, a former educator, said reading out loud is an important skill for children.

“It’s fun. I like doing it. I gets me back working with kids which I like,” Beach said. “It’s fun to see a kid who is too nervous to read and just watches at first and then they do it and you can tell they feel good about themselves.”

Children who read to Kona get a special bookmark. After three times, the child gets a special prize from Youth Services Librarian Krissie Carter.

“Kona helps the kids relax. No one is going to correct them. He’s just going to lie there and listen,” Beach said.

Clovis resident and mother of two Rachel Jackson, 30, read about Kona’s presence in a library newsletter and her children were immediately excited she said.

“They get to read to a dog,” she said. “They love it.”

Jackson said her 6-year-old, Jake, is home-schooled and he doesn’t like to read.

“He actually looks forward to this,” she said. “And his reading has improved. His fluency has improved a lot.”

Jackson said Jake read level 2 books when he started and now reads level 4 books.

“It’s a great opportunity. It’s a good way to interest kids in reading,” she said.

Clovis resident and mother of two Brandi Vanover, 33, found Kona in the library one day and her children have now decided to visit him every week.

“They just like to read to him,” Vanover said. “It gives kids an opportunity to read.”

Vanover said the opportunity to read doesn’t come up often with video games and TV ready to distract the children at every moment.

“This is very motivating for them,” she said.

Carter said Kona’s presence has gone over well at the library.

“At first I was concerned about allergies but it has not been an issue,” she said. “I’ve seen the kids. They enjoy it. It’s a very positive thing.”

Carter said Kona comforts the children and Beach is just as supportive.

“Many kids are very self conscious. They’re afraid someone will snicker or laugh if they don’t pronounce a word just right or rush them if they read maybe a little slower. Kona’s not going to judge or rush them,” Carter said.

Fast Facts

What: Tailwagging Tutors

When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: Clovis-Carver Public Library

Information: 769-7840