First-grader Brice Salinas, 7, reads to golden retriever Derek as owner Angela Kubasa helps him along at Matilda Harris Elementary School in Kingsland, where Derek is a reading therapy dog for kids. Kubasa brings Derek twice a week to the school to help kids gain confidence by having them read books to the dog one-on-one. CHRIS VIOLA/The Times-Union
Dog helps Kingsland readers relax, build their confidence
The golden retriever and his owner listen while students work through books.
By GORDON JACKSON, The Times-Union
KINGSLAND – Once a week, Brice Salinas reads aloud to a new friend who will never have the ability to understand more than a few words he says.
Despite the communication barrier, Brice, 7, says he is the envy of his first-grade classmates at Matilda Harris Elementary School in Kingsland when he reads to his friend Derek – an 8-year-old golden retriever.
Brice and Derek meet in a virtually empty classroom containing nothing but a box of books, two brightly colored bean bag chairs and a thick pillow on the floor. The session begins after Brice thumbs through a box of books for an appropriate selection and takes a seat in one of the chairs next to Derek’s owner, Angela Kubasa.
As Brice begins reading aloud, Derek snuggles against his leg, looking intently as if he understands what is being said. About halfway through the first book, Kubasa corrects Brice when he mispronounces a word and encourages him to read “loud and proud.”