Therapy pets: Reading has gone to the dogs

Roxy Reading Therapy Dogs bring smiles to kids' faces. (Courtesy of Roxy Reading via Facebook)

Dogs reading books? No, you won’t find Fido sitting in your reading chair with a good book, but did you know that dogs can help young children with the challenges of reading? You have probably seen therapy pets at hospitals, senior centers and nursing homes visiting the sick and the elderly, but some of these volunteer teams of animals and their handlers also go into schools and libraries for reading programs.

Organizations like PAWS for People, Comfort Caring Canines Therapy Dogs, Inc., and Roxy Reading Therapy Dogs are nonprofit organizations that recruit and train pets (primarily dogs, but PAWS for People also has cats and bunnies on its teams) and their handlers to help provide physical and mental therapy to people who need it the most. Regular visits from a furry friend have been known to speed up the recovery from illnesses and injury and also to help ease depression and loneliness. In reading therapy programs, the focus is on helping children become more confident readers.

Reading out loud to a cuddly dog lying at your feet is definitely less stressful then in a classroom filled with judgmental eyes. If your child is struggling with learning how to read, sessions with a therapy dog might help him increase his comprehension and reading level. Reading therapy pets visit schools and libraries throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Here are some upcoming sessions.

At the Glenside Free Library in Glenside, Pa., therapy dogs will be visiting for Tail Waggin’ Tutors on Tuesday, Aug. 19 and Tuesday, Aug. 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

PAWS for People has therapy pets volunteering at many local libraries this month as well. They will be at Brandywine-Hundred Library in New Castle, Del., on Saturday, Aug. 16 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,Tuesday, Aug. 19 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Brody from PAWS for People will be at Downingtown Library on Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Parkesburg Free Library in Parkesburg, Pa. will also be host to a reading therapy session from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For a more detailed schedule, click here.

If you and your pet would like to volunteer at programs like these, Comfort Caring Canines Therapy Dogs, Inc. is hosting an evaluation session on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Lansdale in Lansdale, Pa. There is a list of pre-requirements you have to fill out before the evaluations step so make sure you check the website for instructions. Some of their dogs participate in the Roxy Reading Program. For information about upcoming events with Roxy Reading Therapy Dogs, click here. All sessions are free, but you need to register ahead of time.