Building a Creative Community for Children Within Libraries – R.E.A.D. With a Furry Friend

When you think of a man’s best friend, you think of the loving animal, the dog. Dogs have been a wonderful and joyous pet, as well as friend, to many families around the world. They are very caring, helpful, and accepting animals who love anyone and everyone around them, no matter what. As a result of their behavior, dogs have become a therapeutic tool to use towards people who are sick, disabled, and in need of a good friend. Therapeutic dogs have been around since World War II when dogs were trained to go around and visit the sick within hospitals. Since then, organizations and programs have been created and expanded to not only give hope and joy to those who are sick but also to those who are in need of good company.
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In 1999, a program developed in Utah was designed for young readers to have a chance to read to trained therapeutic dogs. The thought behind this was, “kids would feel less stress reading if they were reading to someone who would never laugh at a mistake or judge them for mispronouncing a word” (Reading to Dogs Helps Kids Build Literacy Skills, 2009). From this thought, a national program across the United States was born. This program is called R.E.A.D., which stands for Reading Education Assistance Dogs. R.E.A.D. has become a world-wide success in bringing dogs and other animals, including cats and bunnies, to schools and local libraries for young children to read to. This program, including similarly named programs, PAWs for Reading, Read to a Dog, and READing Paws, is free to the public and encourages all types of young readers to come and read to these furry friends. Through R.E.A.D., it is anticipated that “the pets will calm children who are struggling, excite those who are bored and help kids equate reading with fun” (At Libraries, Children Find Delight in Reading to Dogs, 2012).
dog and kid Since these reading programs have started, they have become highly popular with young children and parents. Many young readers, who struggle, tend to sway away from reading, especially when reading to others, as these children feel insecure or embarrassed that they are unable to read at the same level as their peers do. As stated by Cynthia Power in At Libraries, Children Find Delight in Reading to Dogs, “Children never get a chance to read without someone telling them they mispronounced a word or skipped part of the story; we don’t give children that chance to just enjoy reading” (At Libraries, Children Find Delight in Reading to Dogs, 2012). With this program, children are able to sit down with a fuzzy friendly animal and read a book without feeling pressured to know a word or understand the story, as their animal friend will never talk back or make the reader feel insecure about themselves. The dogs are solely here to listen and reassure young readers that reading is fun and that everyone can do it.
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Listed below are just some of the libraries within Michigan that are currently involved in the R.E.A.D. program. If you are interested in bringing a young reader to read with a dog, please check out your local library’s calendar of events, as well as surrounding libraries, as this opportunity for children should not be missed!

Clinton Macomb Library
Delta Township District Library
MacDonald Public Library
Blair Memorial Library
Rochester Hills Public Library
Petoskey District Library
St. Clair Shores Public Library
Redford Township District Library
Civic Center Library
Sterling Heights Public Library

Possible Discussion

What are your thoughts on this program? Do you think it is beneficial for a young reader to read to someone or something without hearing any feedback? Why or Why not?

References

Brundige, Wendy. (2009, August 16) Reading to Dogs Helps Kids Build Literacy Skills. Retrieved from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/story?id=8339031

Zoom Room Online. (2010) The First Therapy Dog. Retrieved from Zoom Room Online: http://www.zoomroomonline.com/culver-city/first-therapy-dog.html

Svrluga, Susan. (2012, December 27) At Libraries, Children Find Delight in Reading to Dogs. Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-27/local/36030492_1_central-library-alexandria-library-dogs

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3 responses to “Building a Creative Community for Children Within Libraries – R.E.A.D. With a Furry Friend

  1. Even if I was going with just a gut feeling on this, I’d think that this sort of program couldn’t help but be beneficial. My immediate thoughts would be that it would teach the children doing the reading new levels of patience (dealing with an animal rather than a person), confidence (the dog isn’t going to laugh if they stumble over a word or take too long), and ultimately skill (not being scared into stopping will mean they will keep practicing).

    That said, it’s nice to find other articles that boost these days in addition to the ones you found. Bassette and Taber-Doughty’s study found that “students experienced increases in on-task behaviors during intervention and maintained improvements over time” (2013). And in Stevens’ article, not only does he also go along those same lines that I was (lack of ridicule) but adds that in the study he’s writing on, the next step was to let the kids start walking the dogs and giving them water so that they’d learn responsiblity (2013). It would be a bit much for libraries to go quite that far, but I love that it’s the next logical step in the process.

    Bassette, L., & Taber-Doughty, T. (2013). The effects of a dog reading visitation program on academic engagement behavior in three elementary students with emotional and behavioral disabilities: A single case design. Child & Youth Care Forum, 42(3), 239-256.

    Stevens, W. (2013). Professor dog. Idaho Magazine, 12(10), 28-30.

    • I agree, that although I have yet to take my son to an activity like this (he’s 3), I can’t see how it is nothing but beneficial for a child. It doesn’t matter whether a child is struggling or highly advanced in their reading skills, having the opportunity to experience a learning activity like this would help not only their reading skills, but give children a chance to learn in a new way. I like the article you found that added the idea that children could also walk and feed the dog on top of reading to them to gain a sense of responsibility.

  2. We have this program at our library and it is wonderful! We call it the Tail-Waggin’ Tutors! The time slots fill up fast and it usually has a waiting list. The children love to read to the dogs. And it really does improve their reading and self-esteem. The dogs are non-judgmental of course, which helps the child be more confident about reading. A great program!!!

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