During the month of February, volunteers will bring their service dogs to the library to assist young readers.
A partnership between the San Juan Island Library and the Animal Protection Society of Friday Harbor, the program is modeled after several national programs that pair early readers with dogs. Kids of any age are often shy, and afraid to read out loud. In this program, school-aged children get to read aloud to the assistance dogs for 15-minute sessions, which helps the children build their reading confidence. “Reading aloud can be a terribly frightening experience for kids,” said Melina Lagios, Assistant Director, Youth Services. “The dogs have a way of putting the children at ease. They don’t laugh or snigger, they have a built-in patience.” This also introduces the kids to working dogs, and to how dogs help people in a variety of ways. Children also receive a free paperback book for participating in the program – and the dogs get rewarded with lots of attention, maybe a treat or two.
Melina teamed with Tawny Martel, of the Animal Protection Society of Friday Harbor to develop the program. It was launched in conjunction with the shelter’s Kennel Kids program, which teaches children how to handle animals properly. Then it was just a matter of finding volunteers and therapy dogs which have been trained and certified to work with people.
Both women report they’ve noticed an increase in interest – kids talking about books, excited about reading, improvement in their reading skills and confidence, as well as their confidence around dogs.
Dogs and their owners will be at the library every Tuesday between 3:30 and 4:30 pm. No registration is necessary. For more information, contact Melina Lagios.