Reading is an important step in a child's life; it can open the doorway for many opportunities. There are many ways for a child to improve reading skills, and reading out loud is one of the most important. There is a new way to read aloud springing up across the country: Read to a dog.
The Enoch Pratt Free Library has started a PAWS to Read program at seven branches throughout the city. The participating dogs are Pets on Wheel's service/therapy dogs and their owners, which is great because they like to sit and listen, and they are very well-trained.
According to the organization Paws & Think, "The Paws to Read program improves children's reading skills and boosts confidence by pairing practicing readers with a trained therapy dog. Children read to dogs in a positive, non-threatening, fun environment. The dogs listen and don't tease, laugh, or judge the child."
Children of all ages (as young as 2 and as old as 18) enjoy reading to the dogs. As the children's librarian at the Brooklyn Branch, I have the pleasure of supervising the program on the third Saturday of each month. Every month, we have new kids who are excited by the opportunity to read to the dogs. Many of these children are terrified of dogs, never having grown up with them, and PAWS to Read offers them a chance to interact with friendly dogs.
This past program the young man pictured above was scared when the dogs walked through the door, but by the end of the program (with a little moral support) he read to each of the dogs multiple times. It warms my heart that so many children come out for this program, and will choose pick up a book over sitting at the computer. As a librarian, what more can I ask for? I love seeing children enjoying themselves with a book, and improving their reading skills.
Another great benefit of the PAWS to Read program is that it has partnered up with our Read Down Fines program to help children pay off their fines by reading in the library. "Woof Woof" to that!
Bring your kids and share the benefits of reading aloud while making some lucky dogs very happy!