In the back room at the library, Abbey, a six-year-old Golden Retriever, and Mea, a three-year-old Toy Poodle, cuddled up next to new friends as they read books together, like “Larabee” and “The Great Gracie Chase: Stop that Dog!”
Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) is a program held at the Pace Library from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. the second Saturday of every month and at the Navarre Library from 4 to 5:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of the month. Kids sign up for a 15-minute time slot to read with a certified therapy dog.
The program started at the Pace Library in June, according to Melodie Taylor, the library manager.
“Kids may be embarrassed to read aloud to a brother or sister, but here it’s one-on-one and they read to the dog. Everyone loves dogs,” Taylor said. “The program is encouraging kids to be around books.”
The same two dogs, Abbey and Mea, typically attend the Saturday program.
Yvonne Kass, of Milton, is the owner of Abbey. For the past four years. Abbey has been visiting elementary schools and libraries and is certified through Delta Society, where she has been screened for temperament, health, attitude, cleanliness and good manners, among other skills.
Judy Delano, of Milton, the owner of Mea, the Toy Poodle, also visits nursing homes and children’s hospitals as a certified therapy dog.
“I have two other dogs at home that couldn’t do this, but (Mea) absolutely loves it,” Delano said. “She loves children.”
According to the R.E.A.D. program website, www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html, therapy animals have documented benefits with children. Besides improved reading, increased relaxation and lowering of blood pressure, therapy animals also foster safety, intimacy and help kids turn off anger and depression.
Emma Taylor, 5, Pace, read to both Abbey and Mea on Saturday. Emma’s father, Mike, said she’s a huge animal lover.
“She wants to be a doggy doctor when she grows up,” Mike said.
After reading with Mea, Emma gave the 5-pound Poodle a few treats and watched her do tricks.
And with Abbey, although her long blonde Golden Retriever hair shed on Emma’s black shirt and leggings, it didn’t stop her from cuddling up next to the dog and rubbing under her chin while reading.
Taylor, the library manager, said the R.E.A.D. program is popular at other libraries and wishes more people knew about it.
“It’s something free to do on a Saturday that doesn’t involve watching cartoons,” she said.
Becoming a certified therapy dog for R.E.A.D.
Visit www.therapyanimals.org to find more information about how to become a Reading Education Assistance Dog team.
If you go
- Kindergarten through fifth grade
- 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. second Saturday of the month at Pace Library
- 4 to 5:30 p.m. second Wednesday of the month at Navarre Library
- Sign up in advance at the library or call 850-981-7323