HANCOCK COUNTY — With four-legged, furry friends nestled beside her, Lydia Wilson read aloud from one of her favorite books.

The sixth-grader at New Palestine Elementary School sat beside a puppy named LaKota; a beagle named Tallulah; Nickie Scott, Bentley’s Buddies and Friends owner; and Lydia’s brother Nick, a Doe Creek Middle School student.

The small group was enjoying the new office space at Bentley’s Buddies and Friends reading program, 1220 W. Main St. Suite C, Greenfield. The opening of the new office will now allow parents and teachers to make appointments for students who need extra reading help. The sessions will happen in a more intimate format with only four or five children, and of course, the dogs.

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For the past three years, Scott and her beloved pal Bentley, along with other dogs, have visited area schools and the Hancock County Public Library to meet with county children, allowing children to read to the animals.

The idea is to relax the children and help them understand reading can and should be fun, Scott said.

“It’s not about teaching, it’s about just letting the children read with the animals,” Scott said.

Scott of Greenfield watcher her daughter, 14, fall in love with reading at an early age and wants to provide all children with the chance to improve their reading skills. Scott wanted to open an office for Bentley’s Buddies and Friends several years ago when she first started the reading program but didn’t have the funding.

Scott recently received a grant of $5,000 from Schneider Electric, giving her enough money to rent an office. She’s now in search of volunteer help as well as reading buddies that have a calm temperament.

Free reading sessions at the new office will be by appointment only; donations will be accepted. The new office is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday with reading sessions also available from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

While Scott and Bentley’s Buddies and Friends will continue classroom visits during school time, the new office provides students who need extra reading time a chance to get it with their furry friends.

Scott and the dogs already visit school-aged students in the Greenfield-Central School Corp., Southern Hancock School Corp. and at St. Michael Catholic School during school hours. By adding the office, now students outside those school districts can read to the dogs.

“For classrooms with several kids, we’ll continue to go see them, but this is more of a one-to-one reading opportunity for the kids,” Scott said.

Aynslee Dellacca, a sixth-grader and Savannah, her sister, a fourth-grader, both at St. Michael Catholic School and their 3-year-old brother Levi, gathered around Bentley for a private reading session at the new office.

“Certain dogs can just sit down and listen to you,” Aynslee said. “When they do it feels like you have someone who can just listen without correcting you and it makes it nice.”

After hosting the visiting reading program for several years, Scott has noticed a major difference in the reading skills of students who get to spend time reading to the dogs, she said.

“I see real growth in these students,” Scott said. “The kids, they bond with the dogs and the dogs bond with the kids.”

If you go

Reading sessions are held by appointment at the new Bentley’s Buddies and Friends office, 1220 W. Main St. Suite C, Greenfield; sessions are free, but donations will be accepted. The new office is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday with reading sessions also available from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.