Sometimes all you need is a helping hand, but in this case, a helping paw. In January, the Bath Public Library started a Paws for Reading program to help children get comfortable with their reading level while reading to therapy dogs.
“The idea of a therapy dog reading to a child is that the dogs are non-judgmental,” said librarian Carrie Frazer said.
The library rotates two groups of organizations on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Therapy Dogs International and Love on a Leash.
“The support they give to adults and kids is amazing, especially to the kids,” Therapy dogs trainer Lolie Fabela said.
The kids get excited when plopping down on the bean bags reading their book of choice to the dogs. “I love it, I love reading,” said 8-year-old Evelyn Jayne.
The Bath library caught on to the idea of children reading to dogs from schools and libraries in Haslett and DeWitt. Frazer said, “I think when you have an animal, people lighten up and it breaks down a barrier and relaxes everybody.”
Evelyn’s dad, Tim Jayne, said, “It helps that they can read out loud to the dogs.”
While reading a book on alligators Evelyn came across a large word, looked up at Buddy (the therapy dog), and sounded out the entire word. “Those are the things that make my heart do this,” said Fabela, clapping. “They get the word they didn’t get on the page before, because Buddy don’t judge.”
The kids run up to the dogs when they see them, creating a bond. Therapy dog trainer Starr Worth said, “It’ll stick with the kids. They’ll remember it.”
“Sometimes, Buddy will lie under the table and the kids lie under the table with him and tell him all of their problems,” Fabela said. “They tell us exactly where to go and what to do by the expressions on their face or how they’re feeling. And Buddy’s the first one to pick up on it.”
The dogs bring excitement to reading. They show reassurance and support toward the kids. Fabela said, “The kids bring it out, we do it for them.”