Every Monday night for the next four weeks, dogs will invade the children’s section of the Sylvania Branch Library. But the pooches aren’t rowdy and they certainly won’t bite anyone.
As therapy dogs for Therapy Dogs International, the friendly animals are letting students read to them.
Sue Schafer, manager of the Sylvania library, had the idea to bring dogs into the building for a reading program after watching a show on Animal Planet.
“I saw a show on Animal Planet about dogs visiting libraries,” she said.
Seeing the program inspired her to introduce Sit! Stay! Read! to the Reynolds Corners Branch Library about a decade ago. Ms. Schafer said the best part about the program, which has been offered at the Sylvania library for at least three years, is that the children aren’t embarrassed to read to the dogs.
Nancy Hamilton of Toledo, who brought her dog Kelly to listen to readers, has participated in the program for nine years and has seen the change the dogs bring about in the children.
“You see how their reading improves,” she said. “We’ve also helped kids get over their fear of dogs. They’re not being judged; the dog can’t correct them.”
Ms. Hamilton said it amazes her how the children might start off being fearful of the dogs, but by the end of a few weeks, they end up being able to pet them and sit next to them without being scared.
“Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes it takes a few weeks,” she said. Some of the dogs appeared to be listening to their readers intently, while others were sprawled out, relaxing. The five dogs taking part in Sit! Stay! Read! have received therapy certificates for “good citizenship,” meaning they are all capable of working well with children.
Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing, and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions, and wherever else therapy dogs are needed, according to the organization’s Web site.
Students who take part in the program have the opportunity to read to a dog for 15 minutes.
Participants receive a stamp every week and then a certificate at the end of the program, if they complete all weeks. After reading to one of the dogs, the students receive a bookmark, complete with the pet’s picture, name, and a short description of the animal.
While there is now a waiting list to get involved with the remaining weeks of the program, Ms. Schafer said there is always the possibility of cancelations.
For more information about the program, visit toledolibrary.org or call the Sylvania branch at 419-882-2089.
Contact Kelly McLendon at: email@example.com or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.