ROSWELL, Ga. – Outside of a classroom setting, most people would not consider reading to be a group activity, but on Nov. 6, Roswell resident Gail Goldberg proved that notion wrong.
Goldberg, a retired kindergarten teacher, is now a volunteer for Therapy Dogs International. TDI hosts a program called Tail Waggin’ Tutors that promotes literacy in children by allowing kids to read books to therapy dogs. Paired with her Great Pyrenees partner, Biscuit, Goldberg helps children throughout Georgia to improve their reading abilities.
Learning to read is a challenge for many children, and the stress of reading aloud in a classroom can be counterproductive to a child’s self-esteem.
“For a child to have the opportunity to sit beside a warm, fuzzy, calm dog and show the dog their book and read it to them, has been shown to give that child an activity to look forward to and relish,” Goldberg said. “As the child reads or shares their book with a dog such as Biscuit, the teacher can observe where the weaknesses are and target them in her lessons. It’s just a win-win all the way around, and the dogs really enjoy visiting with the children.”
It takes a special kind of animal to be a therapy dog, and Biscuit’s story is an inspiring one. Biscuit was abandoned in the back of an apartment building in Tennessee at the tender age of 4 months. She was tied to a tree and left with little food and water. A neighbor heard her cries and called animal rescue services.
From there, Biscuit went on to live in different foster homes throughout Georgia before residing with Goldberg and her husband; the couple instantly noticed Biscuit’s loving and magnetic personality. Goldberg had a professional U.S. Customs canine trainer work with Biscuit for seven months before submitting her for the therapy dog test at Therapy Dogs International. Biscuit passed with flying colors and joined Goldberg in her mission to help children with their confidence in reading.
Goldberg and Biscuit accomplished quite a goal when they visited Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center in Marietta Nov. 6. Handler and dog went to each classroom full of children, acquainting the students with the colossal canine that weighs in at 140 pounds. Despite her intimidating size, the Great Pyrenees is an incredibly gentle giant. Biscuit inspired smiles amongst the children as they approached to pet her.
This visit in particular was distinct for Biscuit because it marked her 150th therapy visit within two years. In honor of this accomplishment, the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy donated 150 books to Sheltering Arms in Biscuit’s name. Goldberg and Biscuit distributed the books, some of which included Goldberg’s own book, “Animals A-Z: Poems for Early Readers.”
Together, Goldberg and Biscuit make a wonderful team and will continue their mission of improving child literacy. To learn more about Goldberg’s work, visit www.gailgoldbergbook.com.