• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Sharing favorite book with a dog helps kindergartner


While his classmates excitedly hurried into a kennel at the Woodford Humane Society, Jacob Hall tentatively made his way to an area where nine kindergartners from Woodford Christian School would read to dogs. Kindergarten teacher Emily Woodside viewed reading to a dog as good therapy for Jacob, who has difficulty with social interactions because of autism spectrum disorder. "It's good practice for him (when he's) in real-life situations with people," said mom Amy Hall. "Because that's not always the most natural thing for him to do is to say, 'Hey, look at this.' "So it's a good day." Jacob got to read one of his favorite books - Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat - to his new four-legged friend, Punchy. "As we gave (Jacob) that book and he began to read . his anxiety began to ease," said Woodside. "And then he opened the book and was showing (the pictures) to the dog." Because her son is usually "very afraid of animals," coming to the Woodford Humane Society and reading to a dog named Punchy was "huge for him," Hall said. Woodside described reading to dogs as a wonderful opportunity for every one of her students, but especially for kids with special needs or those who are struggling readers. Because of the limited space in the Woodford Humane Society's kennel area, Woodside's school's smaller classes are a benefit because all nine of her kindergartners got to participate in the program together last Friday morning. Asked to reflect on how being a student at Woodford Christian School has been good for her son, Hall said, "He's been able to come out of his shell and interact more with the teachers and with the students. And he's not had that opportunity before. "And I can see that (progress) even with his interaction with the animals because he wouldn't be comfortable today if he didn't have that experience with people."

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