MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Angie McGaffin once noticed her neighbor’s daughter would intentionally avoid passing the front of her house. After speaking with her neighbor, McGaffin found out that the girl was afraid of dogs. McGaffin decided to invite the girl to her house to read to her dog, Molly. After a week, the girl came over. She sat on a blanket with Molly and began to read her a book. Before long, the girl spent an entire summer asking to come over and read to Molly.
Helping a child be more comfortable around animals was an added perk for McGaffin, a board member of the nonprofit organization, Tails of Aloha, and her therapy dog, Molly. Their primary job is making visits to different schools, hospitals, hospices and other locations where people request therapy dogs.
This week, McGaffin and Molly, an 8-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, along with fellow handlers and their dogs, visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii library, July 22, 2015, for a Reading to Dogs event for a second year.
Coordinated with the base Exceptional Family Member Program and the base library, Tails of Aloha brought three dogs, Trouble, Le‘a and Molly. Each dog is certified in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program from Intermountain Therapy Animals, a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City.
Zandrea Glenn, a family caseworker with EFMP, said the event was requested again by families who enjoyed it last year. One family in particular said their child liked the event so much that he started reading to the family pet at home.
“The parent was so excited because it rejuvenate(d) his excitement with reading which is exactly what we wanted (to happen),” Glenn said. “We want kids to feel comfortable reading and we want them to be good readers.”
The event was open to everyone with base access, regardless of age or reading level. Each participant had a 15-minute session in which they could read as many books as they wanted from approximately 40 Hi-Lo books for ages 7 to 18 years old. People who struggle with reading can turn to Hi-Lo books featuring subjects that are “high interest” for their age group, yet are written at a “lower” level to help them read. The dog handler does not step in to help unless the reader asks for help.
“Kids will increase their reading scores by reading to a dog,” McGaffin said. “Dogs don’t correct them, dogs don’t grade them, dogs don’t criticize them, dogs don’t fill in the words for them. Dogs are always interested to hear what they have to say.”
McGaffin said being able to pet a dog allows a child’s heart rate to slow down so they can better focus on their reading and catch mistakes on their own. She said studies have shown that reading to dogs helps improve reading scores.
“It’s very nice to get some exposure to (activities like this),” said Lupe Standfield. “(My granddaughter) loves dogs.”
Standfield, who came to the event with her granddaughter, Brianna Torbert, 10, recently relocated to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Representatives from the Hawaii International Dyslexia Association and Assistive Technology Resource Center were also present to provide resources and chat with families.
Anyone who is interested in certifying their dogs as a therapy dog can visit Maluhia Hospital in Honolulu on the first two Saturdays of every month from 10 to 11 a.m. For more information about Tails of Aloha, visit tailsofaloha.com.
The mission of Marine Corps Base Hawaii is to provide facilities, programs and services in direct support of units, individuals and families in order to enhance and sustain combat readiness for all operating forces and tenant organizations aboard MCB Hawaii.