By Mary Ryder
Hollywood Library Access Services Assistant
Do you like dogs? Who doesn’t! They are truly our best friends. They love us no matter what. Even when words are hard to pronounce or reading is challenging, they’re happy to listen to our voices and lend a supportive ear and a wagging tail. That’s the big perk for our Read to the Dogs program. Many Multnomah County libraries offer this wonderful program one or more times every month.
Read to the Dogs is great for both brand-new and experienced readers ages 5-13. The program can help readers who need some practice and a little confidence boost, and confident readers also enjoy a good canine listener! It works like this: An adult signs up a reader with a book of their choice for a one-on-one, half-hour time slot with our specially trained dogs. When it’s their turn, the reader cozies up in a quiet room with the dog and handler. Other adults are encouraged to step away, so as to help the child relax and avoid performance anxiety. The dogs aren’t judgmental, and they don’t correct the kids on mispronunciation or stumbling over words, simultaneously creating focus, enhancing self-esteem, motivating speech and intonation, and allowing the child to build confidence.
Kids often thrive and relax in this setting, with the pooches curled up for stories and snuggles. Kids who are already fairly prolific readers enjoy the program just for the thrill of having a new audience with a dog they’ve not read to before, and are return readers just because it’s so much fun.
Although the short-term benefits of Read to the Dogs are amazing (especially for your excited young animal lover) the long-term benefits can be even more so. Kids who have participated in the Read to the Dogs program sometimes become less likely to get stressed or anxious about reading in their school classes, and it helps increase vocabulary and vocal structure in a natural and relaxed setting. The idea is that if kids have more opportunities to read for fun (rather than read specifically for learning), they’ll turn into lifelong readers.
Our Hollywood dogs love to be read to, and look forward to being here every month. Chico is a golden-haired Tibetan spaniel, with the cutest underbite, who divides his time between Hollywood and Kenton, and Daisy is a sweet older lady shepherd mix who has been doing therapy and service work since she was a young pup. All dogs (and their wonderful handlers) are certified through Pet Partners, a local pet therapy organization that trains, evaluates and connects the pups with people who will benefit from their calm demeanor, exemplary listening skills and abounding extra love.
Participating is easy and there are a lot of ways to sign up. You can find details on the library website, multcolib.org, under the “events” tab, or you can call or just come talk to us. Different libraries offer different days and times and we’re always happy to help you get started. Best of all, our dogs are excited to meet you and are all ears (and wagging tails).