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Dog a patient audience for children learning to read

Libraries

Frodo knows.

When you're just learning to read, and it seems everyone wants to correct everything you say, Dana Kollman's 6-year-old springer spaniel knows to sit quietly and just listen.

If you're only 6, and the presence of any four-legged, furry animal makes you very, very uneasy, the 65-pound Frodo knows how to be a friend and not a threat.

Frodo and Kollman have been part of the Paws to Read program for more than two years, making regular visits to the Lansdowne and Arbutus libraries to serve as a silent, but encouraging, audience for young children reluctant to read aloud.

"He knows," Kollman said. "He knows when he sees that vest he has to be on good boy behavior."

On Saturday, Nov. 1, the two made their monthly appearance at the Lansdowne Library where they worked with a group of five children for about two hours.

The children each brought a book of their choosing to Frodo and read aloud to him while the others sat quietly and listened.

"Sometimes we'll say, 'Wait a minute. Frodo wants to see the pictures.'" Kollman said on the occasional interruptions.

Saturday afternoon's turnout was more than double what Frodo and Kollman saw during their previous visit, according to Eric Rutledge of the Lansdowne Library.

"Usually it's just pre-schoolers," he said. "But sometimes we'll have kids who are a little older who want to get near the dog.

"We do have to sell it a little bit," Rutledge said. "We're a smaller branch so we don't get as much business as some of the larger ones."

Frodo does not have to be sold on taking part, however.

"He loves it. He loves it," said Kollman on her dog's role as a nonjudgmental audience.

The mother of four, ages, 10, 8, 7 and 6, said Frodo willingly accepts that role at home for her children as well, patiently listening while her younger children read aloud to him.

"The whole idea of Paws to Read is that shy readers will usually open up to an animal," she said.

"They get so focused on reading to Frodo that they're not aware they may be stumbling on words, so they don't," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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