Meet a child's best reading audience: Emily - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Meet a child's best reading audience: Emily

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) -

You probably don't remember what it was like learning how to read. It's not the easiest skill for a lot of children.

One apartment complex in Lexington is trying to make sure their students stay on top of their studies with the help of a very special tutor.

Eight-year-old Monia Sistrunk likes to read, but she struggles sometimes.

"I have to learn big words and figure them out," Sistrunk said.

She used to be shy about reading out loud until she met Emily.

Now, instead of introducing you to what you believe to be a much older tutor with a heart of gold, that's not the case here.

Emily is a dog.

"The dog does not talk," said Monia's mother, Carmen. "So she can't correct her or mimic her in different ways. I think that's a big part of it. Builds her confidence up."

It's hard not to love the yellow Labrador retriever who just lays and listens.

Once a week, Emily, a therapy dog, and her owner, stop by the Park North Apartments in Lexington.

"I think it's just the comfort of having an animal close by to listen to the student who's non-threatening," said Van Bowers, the New Providence Elementary School principal. "The kids feel at ease. They're not nervous about reading."

Bowers says many of his students struggle academically. So, all year round, teachers tutor and read to the students. Emily is a bonus.

"Our boys and girls have shown improvement with their reading. They've shown improvement socially and emotionally," Bowers said.

The resource center is free for the families. Property managers at Park North say their goal is not only to provide affordable housing, but to help families become self-sufficient.

"With the partnerships we have in the community, it helps keep kids active and helps keep them off the streets," said Reese Quick, a representative from Southern Development Management Company, the group who owns Park North.

That's a reason Carmen Sistrunk keeps sending her kids back.

"It gives something for the kids to do," Carmen said. "I'm not used to that in a neighborhood."

The children love the Labrador and the learning, and they leave all insecurities at the door.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

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