Cynologist (someone who studies dogs, according to the dictionary) Inguna Tihomirova and her Newfoundland hound Zum Zum along with librarian Līga Bujane have created a new tradition at the library - reading with a dog. For several years already, once a week, children from Valmiera and surrounding villages meet at the library to read together with a four-legged friend who always listens with great interest and never makes remarks.
"He (Zum Zum) guves them calm. Particularly the big dogs, who are more sleepy, are calm. They emanate the calmness that is now lacking around us, because there is anxiety everywhere, everyone is in a hurry, but here's is someone ready to listen to you. Whether you can read well or badly, he's not going to criticise," says Tihomirova.
Last year Zum Zum helped 86 young readers. Experts estimate that, with the help of an animal, children's reading skills gradually improve; small readers also go deeper and understand the books written. And what's more important - Zum Zum is encouraging the book habit in a more general sense.
"I have seen children who are coming back for a second year... if they used to take out two books to read, now they take out four," says Līga Bujane, the main librarian of the Valmiera Library.
Valmiera Library hopes that reading with a dog in Latvia will become popular in other libraries too, and some others are reported to be trying out the initiative.
If you are in need of recommendations for your canine bookshelves, here are a few from LSM
1) The Hound of The Baskervilles - Sherlock Holmes' famous mystery actually contains little dog action
2) White Fang - Jack London inhabits the mind of a dog in the Yukon
3) Harry the Dirty Dog - Title says it all in this classic children's tale
4) Cujo - A rabid St Bernard is on the rampage in a Steven King horror tale
5) Travels With Charley - John Steinbeck on the road with a poodle