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Dogs and Libraries: A Paw-Fect Match

by on February 13, 2020

Dogs and Libraries.  What Could be Better?

When I first started developing programs for my public library five years ago, I knew any event with animals would have instant appeal not just for my patrons, but also myself. In my opinion, any day with an animal sighting is a better day.  I’m particularly drawn to dogs for all of the obvious reasons.  So naturally, I tried my best to develop a program where I would be bound to see some furry friends on a regular basis. As luck would have it, dogs and libraries are a paw-fect match.

A growing number of libraries across the country are offering programs inviting therapy dogs to sit and listen as young patrons practice reading aloud. Quad Cities Canine Assistance Network (QC CAN) President, Angie Hall, says the benefits of reading to a therapy dog are extraordinary.

Dogs Don’t Judge

“Dogs don’t judge. They just listen. A child who struggles with reading won’t feel embarrassed when reading to a dog, because the dog does not care if they are a good reader. The dog just loves spending time with them.”

That bond allows the child to focus on reading, improving their literacy skills. The relaxing presence of a dog helps a child let their guard down, so they can feel at ease, which in turn helps their reading comprehension. 

Programs like QC CAN’s Reading Education Alliance of Dogs (READ) aims to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors. The teams help children improve their reading and communication skills while encouraging them to develop a lifelong love of reading. 

Research suggests the benefits are even more impactful.  UCLA Health’s People-Animal Connection provides studies that suggest animal-assisted therapies benefit both one’s mental and physical health.​

The Way Our Program Works

Every month our library invites QC CAN’s READ volunteer teams to the library for an hour after school. We call the program Bow Wow with Books, but most commonly, it’s referred affectionately as ‘Read to Dogs’! QC CAN is a local nonprofit organization that trains, certifies, and coordinates volunteer opportunities with partnering organizations. At each event, five to seven volunteer teams gather in the Children’s Department. Children are encouraged to pick a book, find a dog, and begin reading. The therapy dogs go into a “settle” where they lay on their side, and listen. The children then take turns reading to all of the different dogs during the visit. Several of the therapy dogs have their own trading cards (think the 90’s DARE program).  They are highly sought after valuable rewards given to participants after having read. This makes the pups very popular.

Bow Wow with Books or “Read to Dogs!”

Why It Works

It makes reading fun. Children look forward to the event every month.  They get excited when the dogs enter the library. They take time to pick out the perfect book for each dog, and they enjoy the experience.

My community is fortunate to have a dedicated organization of volunteers who makes our Bow Wow with Books program possible. I highly recommend it and encourage all libraries to implement a similar program.  It’s rewarding for the participants, library staff, volunteers, and most certainly, the dogs. 

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