| Sarah Heinonen
WILBRAHAM – In a quiet room at the Wilbraham Public Library, 7-year-old Stirling Marosits sat on the floor reading aloud. His audience of one was relaxed and seated in front of him. When Marosits finished, he looked up at his intent listener, Cadence, who rolled over in hopes of a belly rub.
Cadence, a 7-year-old Australian Cobberdog with soft, curly fur the color of cafe au lait, is a Bright Spot Reading Buddy. Bright Spot, a non-profit, certifies trained therapy dogs and their humans to go out into the community to provide comfort where needed. The Reading Buddies program is designed to help children, ages 5 and up, gain confidence in their reading skills by providing a nonjudgemental, reassuring audience.
Cadence’s owner, Megan Marshall, takes her to the library in Wilbraham one Tuesday each month since the library began the program in September 2018. They also visit the library in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood of Springfield one Saturday a month. Children read to Cadence for 10 minutes in private, with just a parent, Marshall, and the Children’s Librarian, Heidi Kane. Marshall said that many kids come each month to visit with Cadence and practice their reading skills.
One of those repeat readers is 9-year-old Cayden Moynahan, who brought an Avengers book to read from. Moynahan’s mom said that he has been coming to read to his friend each month since the program started, except November.
Executive director Cynthia Hinckley began Bright Spot in 2004 and since then the non-profit has trained over 600 therapy dogs and their owners. Certified Bright Spot therapy dogs are trained at Animal Alliances in Northampton and work with more than 200 businesses, educational programs, and healthcare facilities. To learn more about Bright Spot therapy dogs, visit bright-spot.org.