The “Paws to Read” program at the Pleasanton library has gone to the dogs. It’s the latest attempt to get children to read–and it’s working!
Children are teamed up with a dog partner. They then get a book, plop down on the ground, and read to their partner. A good story is shared and a little bit of drool.
Getting children to read can be a very difficult for many parents and teachers. There are many reasons why children don’t read. In our fast paced world, some get bored with books. Others who aren’t good readers are uncomfortable working with adults to improve their skills.
Children feel at ease around the dogs. Unlike people, dogs don’t criticize or smirk. They patiently listen to their pint sized story tellers. In return, they get a tummy rub and a few pats on the head. It’s easy to see that reading to dogs would be far less intimidating than reading in front of a classroom.
Sue Jones, a Pleasanton Library staff member, heard about a similar program in Salt Lake City at a 1999 conference. With the assistance of Sandi Martin of Intermountian Therapy Animals, a new group of therapy dogs were born (so to speak). They called them “Reading Education Assistance Dogs” and got the program started.
It was difficult convincing logical minded adults that reading to dogs would help kids. But a Salt Lake City study proved the benefits. In that study, participants’ reading test scores increased and their self esteem got a boost.
The program started with 16 dogs and 34 children. Today, over 200 children take part from schools all over the Bay Area. Parents are astonished to find their book hating children having a great time at the library.