‘Love on a Leash’ builds confidence for young readers
Four therapy dog owners sit with their pooches in a circle on the floor of the children’s room in the Carson City Library.
Youth Services Librarian Amber Sady explains that no children have yet arrived for the monthly event.
Within a few minutes, however, the rug on the floor is filled to capacity with parents, kids – ranging from toddlers to 10 year olds – and visibly happy dogs.
The Love on a Leash program provides a perfect match, said Sady, youth services librarian for the library.
“It gives kids a chance to read to dogs and not have to worry about getting everything perfect,” Sady said. “It helps build confidence and self-esteem – and, like cats, dogs lower your blood pressure.”
Sady said she got a grant to purchase more paperback books for her program, which allows her to give every child a free book who comes in to participate in the reading program.
“We’ve had as many as 35 kids here,” she said, “but when the parking lot was closed down, we had only three.”
That didn’t preclude anyone from having a meaningful time, however, she said. And during the last 10 minutes, a little girl with disabilities came in.
“She absolutely loved the dogs and it meant a lot to everyone,” Sady said.
J.C. Martinez, 9, said the program was a pleasant surprise when he walked into the children’s section of the library Saturday.
“We came into the library to check out books, and we saw all the dogs, so we came over to pet them,” he said, grinning ear to ear.
Alexis Martinez, 10, said she didn’t know the dogs would be at the library, either.
“It seems like they like us to read to them, because they get more attention,” she said.
Kathy Morgan, organizer of Carson City’s Love on a Leash program, came with her dog Neva.
“All our dogs are registered (therapy dogs). We also go to schools, nursing homes and hospitals. This program is real popular throughout the area,” she said.
“The library program really helps children with their comprehension because they don’t have to worry about making mistakes when they read to dogs, and we never correct them,” Morgan said.
Kathy Flaherty sat nearby as 5-year-old Savanna Spain read a book about numbers to Flaherty’s dog Isabella. She offered words of encouragement and lots of smiles as Savanna stopped reading from time to time to pet Isabella.
Fremont Elementary School kindergarten teacher Laura Redmon, one of about 12 members of the local program, brought her spaniel Biscuit to the library.
She said she also takes Biscuit to school three times a week to help students with their reading because she is so impressed with the effectiveness of the program.
“I see how kids are often hesitant to read to adults, but when they read to dogs, they do it with a lot more confidence. It’s amazing. It also helps build fluency,” she said.
But Love on a Leash has remarkable effects on others, as well.
“We go into senior centers and nursing homes, too. One time, there was a lady who was just staring at a wall she felt so down, but she started talking and talking as soon as we got there,” Redmon said.
“I think it reminds them of their homes because sometimes they start telling me about their dogs. We are able to bring them a little piece of home,” she said.
Ron Swirczek said the Love on a Leash program at the library is especially important for youngsters.
“The way kids respond sets the stage for school,” he said. “They’re more inclined to want to read if they can get excited about school and coming to the library for an experience like this.”