Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Barks & Books Program

Barks & Books Helps Foster Care Children Learn to Read
Open Press, Nov. 17, 2007.

Pasadena, CA -- Learning to read is an important milestone in every child’s life. Better reading skills mean better grades and more confidence in the classroom. Many children are asked to read aloud in class, but feel embarrassed when they make mistakes or feel their classmates may tease them.

For the children at Hillsides, a Pasadena charity that creates safe places for children in foster care and prevents the cycle of domestic violence for families, they have the opportunity to practice their reading to a captive audience that will always listen and never criticize.

Manny and Yogi are two dedicated therapy dogs from the Pasadena Humane Society’s Barks & Books program that come to visit the library and children of Hillsides. They sit patiently, watching and listening intently to the children read, offering their support.

“It encourages the children to read out loud, having an audience who responds to them with unconditional love and without fear of criticism,” said Hillsides librarian Sherri Ginsberg. “It is so much fun to have a dog in a library setting where it is not expected, which leads to the children’s excitement of having a dog in the library and in school.”

The children at Hillsides, having been through countless foster care placements and many difficult times delight in having Manny or Yogi visit with them to help sooth and emotionally heal. Since many of the children live at Hillsides, they don’t have the opportunity to have pets of their own so having the dogs visit gives them the chance to socialize with an animal as well.

“The intent is to make reading fun and to boost the child’s confidence in reading aloud,” said Elana Rose Blum, the educational outreach coordinator for the Pasadena Humane Society and the creator of the Barks & Books program. “The animal-related books the kids read also help them realize that animals experience a range of emotions similar to their own and that they have basic needs much like people do.”

Thanks to the charity of the Barks & Books program at the Pasadena Humane Society, the foster care children at Hillsides are able to feel more comfortable in their reading ability and look forward to spending time reading to their friends Manny and Yogi.

About Hillsides
As a Pasadena charity founded in 1913, Hillsides creates safe places for children in foster care living in its residential treatment center and is a community treatment center preventing the cycle of domestic violence for children at risk and their families. To learn more about Hillsides, visit www.Hillsides.org


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