Going to the Dogs

Many libraries have started programs using pet therapy dogs that children can practice their reading skills with. We have been doing a weekly Read to Rover program here for quite a few years with our local Humane Society's pet therapy program. The sessions usually run for three months or four months. (Sept-Nov. and Jan- April).  The reading slots are 15 minutes long and we have 3-4 dogs on blankets their owners bring. We ask parents to sign a waiver for each new child who begins the program that exempts the library from any liability. Our Humane Society coordinator is incredible. She makes bookmarks of the dogs to give to the readers and is there every week with the dogs and owners and is a gentle ambassador for the dogs.

After three years, when program participation began to flag, we started kicking off each three month season with a BIG program that included a "Meet and Greet" with the dogs that really rekindled interest. Then, quite by accident since it was the only open program slot we had, our Hedgehog Librarian started a very popular 4-7 year old storytime that immediately preceded the dog program and our slots have been jammed since. It was a perfect marriage of a literacy program supporting beginning readers followed by a program that supported their reading skills.  Win-win!

The kids have been thrilled.  They love their furry listeners and the dogs love the kids (they barely give our librarians a glance when they prance in - they know who does the reading they love).  Kids with hesitations, low self- esteem or other issues that impact their confidence in their reading skills get a non-judgemental ear and a definite boost.  It has been a special literacy program and we are glad we can do it!

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