Daisy The Dog Helps Children Improve Their Reading Skills

Six-year-old Carly Van Wagner reads to Daisy and Belinda Tantalo. (Bill Bresler | staff photographer)

By Karen Smith For HometownLife.com

Elaina Ayers of Livonia was a shy kindergartner who didn’t like to read out loud.

Now in second grade, she reads confidently in public, sounding out words she doesn’t know, not even minding if people she’s never met before are listening in.

Elaina’s mother, Provvidenza, attributes much of her daughter’s improvement in reading to Daisy the therapy dog, who listens to Elaina read once a month at the Livonia Civic Center Library.

“Dogs do not judge anyone,” Provvidenza Ayers said. “It’s helped her to gain that confidence.”

Daisy is a 7-year-old pedigreed Vizsla, or Hungarian bird-hunting dog, who has volunteered at the library for the past four years to listen to children read with her owner, Belinda Tantalo of Plymouth.

Daisy is registered with Therapy Dogs International. She didn’t receive any special training to become a therapy dog, Tantalo said. Instead, she was tested and found to have the right kind of temperament for therapy dog work.

At first, Tantalo took Daisy to nursing homes. But while the nursing home residents loved her, Tantalo found that Daisy didn’t behave as appropriately as she should have. So Tantalo put together some packets of information about Daisy and offered her services to libraries.

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