Children read to dogs in Carson City Library program
Tilting his head and ears perked up, it seemed like Moose — a chocolate Labrador — was quite intrigued with the book, “There Were 10 in Bed,” read by 2-year-old Shaughnessy.
Either the plot of the story was just as great as a bacon-flavored bone, or the sound of a friendly voice was exciting.
But most importantly, the fact Moose lent an ear to a child helped boost confidence in reading out loud.
“The dogs can be lively and playful, but they know their jobs,” said longtime volunteer Kathy Flaherty. She’s training her sheepdog, Orla, to become a therapy dog.
The Carson City Library’s Tale and Wags Therapy Dogs do more than provide company for pups; children also are enhancing communication and reading skills for an hour, with an attentive audience. The event occurs every other Saturday each month. Participants even receive a free book at the end of every event.
For Moose and Shaughnessy, it was their first time participating in the program.
“This worked out well for her,” said Roxanne Fernandez, Shaughnessy’s mother. “We plan to come more often.”
But for most of the dogs that were at the library Saturday, it was another day doing their job of brightening one’s day.
“The dogs help relieve peer pressure,” said Rob Felicetta, also a volunteer with his golden retriever, Pella. “It helps children develop a love for reading.”
Reading to pets and animals, such as dogs, is a rising popular technique among libraries and school programs internationally. The trend began when the first program debuted in 1999 Salt Lake City, Utah, by the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program.
Although there aren’t many studies conducted on the technique, children have shown improvement in literacy skills and motivation to read after reading aloud to a dog, according to a report by the Public Library of Science.
The presence of dogs reduces blood pressure and improves behavioral processes in children while reading aloud.
“The dogs are the attraction,” Flaherty said. “It’s a great way to get kids off of the computer.”
Some of the volunteer dogs have experience in other therapeutic programs, such as visiting local senior homes and greeting people at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Caren Kipler and her Doberman, Lucy, often volunteer at the airport, the Carson City Library, and the First Presbyterian Church on West Musser Street.
“One of the reasons I started getting involved is because some breeds, like Dobermans, are discriminated against,” she said. “I want to change that perception.”
The number of children who attend Tale and Wags fluctuates and it will end for the year once summer approaches. Flaherty said this is because not many children tend to come to the library during school break, which is why it’s only a winter event.
But as far as volunteer opportunities go, anyone can do it. However, registering your dog with Therapy Dogs Inc., is required, by visiting. therapydogs.com.
It’s a patient process to train a dog but many of the volunteers said it’s worth it in the long run.
“Dogs do something amazing to people,” Felicetta said. “It’s amazing how their presence can change the mindset of a child.”
“It’s a win-win for dogs and people,” Flaherty said.
The next Tale and Wags Therapy session is at 11 a.m. March 18 at the Carson City Library, 900 North Roop St.