If your child wants to practice their reading skills, I have a great idea for you to consider: come to PAWS to Read! If you and your child are seeking the company of some cuddly dogs, I have another great idea for you: come to PAWS to Read!
OK, so it is the same idea, but ever since I found out about PAWS to Read, I have become hooked. The PAWS to Read program at The Enoch Pratt Free Library is designed to get children to interact with friendly dogs in a way that helps them practice their reading skills. The library’s web page description states: “Come to the library to read aloud to a dog. Improve your reading confidence and make a new friend. Volunteers and their dogs from Pets on Wheels will be here to listen. Registration suggested (but drop-ins are welcome!)” Read the original press release here.
The organization that coordinates the availability of dogs and their caretakers is called Pets on Wheels. Pets on Wheels was founded in May of 1982 and has steadily expanded since. Volunteers bring their pets to a variety of places—nursing homes, hospitals, and libraries—just to name a few, and the pets help patients in a myriad of ways. The Pets on Wheels web site has this quote from the Dr. Furstenberg who founded the organization: “the stimulation of playing with animals benefited the patients by getting them back to a higher quality of behavior.” Read more about Pets on Wheels here and here.
I have been volunteering with the organization for a few months now and I can speak from firsthand experience about how rewarding the experience is. Just a short time ago, I was visiting with my dog at the Brooklyn Branch of The Enoch Pratt Free Library and it was remarkable how much the kids enjoyed reading to the dogs. There was even a shy and timid reader or two—but by the end of the hour, they had not only read to the dogs, but they had even had the courage to pet the dogs!
Jessica Hoptay Brown, the Children’s Services Coordinator here at the library, has answered a few questions about the program to explain more about it.
What should people know about PAWS to Read?
What's best about PAWS is that reading to a dog gives children the opportunity to read aloud without judgment: a dog isn't going to criticize, correct, or read over the child. A frequent barrier to kids' reading success is their ability to gain confidence without fear of error or adult influence. This program presents reading as something fun and gives children a unique opportunity: they get to be around dogs in a safe, fun environment, and can learn how to treat an animal and interact with it.
How can people get involved?
Ultimately, we want children to participate in the program and we want to build reader confidence positively. We would also love people to volunteer their pets as a part of the Pets on Wheels organization and come to the library!
All of the owners are incredibly friendly and dedicated, and I can't say enough good things about it!
For more information on how to attend a session, see the calendar on the library web site. Each PAWS event is from 2-3pm on Saturdays, and there are seven different sites: Brooklyn Branch, Central Library, Govans Branch, Light Street Branch, Northwood Branch, Patterson Park Branch, and Reisterstown Road Branch; please contact the location you are interested in visiting.
For more information on how to volunteer with Pets on Wheels, go to www.PetsOnWheels.org.