A Special Time for Reading at Mt. Shasta Elementary School


Four years ago Mt. Shasta Elementary School started a noontime reading program, at the suggestion of its former principal Sally Gasaway. The program, implemented by school librarian Laurie Caldwell, is designed to give students an additional opportunity to improve their reading skills.

During the program, students spend 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one time reading to an adult or student volunteer. Even though it’s just a few minutes a day, the reading time adds up significantly throughout the course of the school year.

This year the program has five adults from the community who volunteer about 50 minutes each week in the school’s library. The students enjoy the adults’ attention, and each volunteer is great with the kids. In addition, there are seven third-grade students who come in two or three times a week to listen to younger students read.

Currently there are 20 student participants involved in the program. Since the students are giving up part of their lunch recess, incentives are offered. The program’s theme this year is “Open a book … find a treasure.” Every participant has a pirate ship on the library wall, and each day a student comes in to read, the student’s ship progresses toward an island. When a student’s ship reaches an island, the student can choose a “treasure” from a treasure chest in the library. At the end of the school year, once the participants have all reached the last island, there will be a Pirate Ice Cream Sundae Party celebration.

As an added twist, there’s a special way for kids to have even more fun while reading during the program, in the form of an 8-pound rescued dog named Lola.

Volunteer Nancy Gandrau adopted Lola, a yorkie/poodle mix, from Pets Without Partners animal rescue in Redding. From the day Nancy met Lola, she was aware there was something special about the little dog. Poodles are known as one of the smartest breeds of dog, and Lola definitely lives up to that reputation.

Nancy discovered the pet therapy program Love on a Leash, and began the process of having herself and Lola certified through the program. The first step was to evaluate Lola’s ability to stay in control in any situation with Nancy – she was tested by a veterinarian and passed with flying colors.

Lola then participated in 10 hours of evaluated visits in a public service environment; Lola and Nancy visited the residents at Shasta View Nursing Center in Weed. Being only 8 pounds, Lola could easily snuggle with the residents – it’s not clear who loved the experience more!

Once completing all her requirements, Lola received her Love on a Leash vest and photo identification. Laurie and Nancy then approached school principal Kale Riccomini for permission for Lola to participate in the reading program. The certification provides liability insurance for Lola which allows her to come into Mt. Shasta Elementary School to utilize her pet therapy skills. A letter was sent out to the parents of children participating in the reading program, and with a 100% positive response, the rest is history … Lola is now in her third school year of reading with students.

Librarian Laurie Caldwell hopes the program’s participants will discover that reading is a true treasure, and that they will continue to develop a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

[sws_green_box box_size=”580″]Canine-assisted Reading at Butte and Shasta County Libraries

Canine reading companions help improve children’s reading & communication skills in a stress-free environment at these area libraries:

  • The Reading Education Assistance Dogs program at the Redding Branch Library invites young children to read to registered therapy dogs from 1-3p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Free. 1100 Parkview Ave. (530) 245-7253.
  • The StoryTail Tutors program of the Chico Branch Library invites beginning, struggling or reluctant readers ages 5 to 11 to read to trained, certified therapy dogs on the fourth Saturday of each month at 2p.m. Free. 1108 Sherman Ave. (530) 891-2726.


About Laurie Caldwell

About Nancy Gandrau

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