‘Bark for Books’ encourages fluent, expressive reading in Anza

Jillian Eason reads “Coyote Moon” to Cheyenne during a Bark for Books event held at the Anza Library April 4. Diane Sieker photo
Jillian Eason reads “Coyote Moon” to Cheyenne during a Bark for Books event held at the Anza Library April 4. Diane Sieker photo

The first ever Bark for Books event was held at the Anza Library Tuesday, April 4, where from 5:30-6:30 p.m., a group of excited children read their chosen books to Cheyenne, a German Shepherd service dog owned and trained by Michelle Hunt of Anza. The event was a huge success according to those in attendance.

“I think this event is fantastic for the community. The children really connect with Cheyenne and are able to relax and read smoothly,” commented Library Associate and parent Tesse Benson.

The taste in reading material varied widely. Conner Benson read a few pages from one of J. K. Rowling’s series of magical books, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Jillian Eason even read some Shakespeare. The dog greeted each child and laid down calmly to be read to, much to the delight of the readers.

Carter Benson read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear, What Do You See,” while Brooklyn Nagel chose “Hot Rod Hamster” and Jayden Lehrbaum read, “It’s Not Fair,” a book about sibling rivalry.

Several of the elementary school children even read to Cheyenne twice, the dog enjoyed every minute. This was a wonderful exercise for the readers to sharpen their skills at reading aloud, honing their skills and introducing additional vocabulary words. It also encourages fluent, expressive reading. Children really learn what reading for pleasure is all about. All participants were given Bark 4 Books bookmarks.

The idea for Barks 4 Books is credited to Michelle Hunt, a dog behaviorist and trainer.

“Creating Anza’s Bark For Books is an accomplishment I am extremely proud of,” said Hunt. “I found Cheyenne here in Anza as a young, too thin, injured, unidentified dog. Her love for people, children in particular, was apparent immediately, but she was extremely psychologically damaged and unbalanced. In addition, I soon discovered she was a ‘creative thinker.’ With time and effort, I was able to remedy endless issues to have her become a certified K9 Therapy Dog. I love having people meet Cheyenne and showing them just how truly amazing all dogs really can be if we would only do our part.”

Bark for Books will be held every Tuesday from 5:30- 6:30 pm. For additional information on pet therapy, visit loveonaleash.org. To contact Michelle Hunt on local dog training and behavioral modification, send an email to k9socal@hotmail.com. For information regarding Bark For Books program, contact the Anza library at (951) 763-4216.

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