Stereotypically, librarians are cat lovers. I am not one of those librarians.
I have always preferred the perky friendliness of dogs. That’s why I’m excited about the newest event series: Canine Book Buddies. At these programs, children can reserve 15-minute timeslots to read or look at a book with a therapy dog.
Normally, the closest one can get to a dog at the library is a book about Clifford or Blue’s Clues. But a few weeks ago, library patron Deirdre Virgalla mentioned hearing that children could read to dogs at the Derby Neck Library.
Virgalla suggested that our library host a similar event because she thought it would be “more of a way to encourage young kids to read.” She knew that her elementary school-age children, Brenna and Joseph, would enjoy such a visit. In fact, Joseph brought home a book about German Shepherds from the library at school this year. If he liked reading about dogs, then why not read to one?
Now the Oxford Public Library is going to the dogs for the entire month of February. Kiro, a four-year-old Basenji, and his friend Ella, a four-year-old lab mix, will listen to stories at 7 p.m. on February 6 and February 27. Then, children can fetch a book to read to 7-year-old mixed breed Duncan at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16. Registration is required for these free events.
All dogs are certified by Therapy Dogs International. Their owners are volunteers who each suspect these events will be as positive for their pets as for the children.
RoseAnn Reggiano explained she wanted to involve her dog Kiro in our project because “he loves children. I figured it would be exciting for him.”
Owner Becky Dvorin said, “I was a former nursery school teacher. There was a period of time when I took my own dog to school with me.” The dog’s visits taught students how to be gentle with animals. Now, Dvorin is looking forward to educating children with another dog, Ella. This time, Dvorin’s pet will teach students how to love reading. “I thought it would be a good new experience for her,” Dvorin said.
Michaela Brown explained that her dog, Duncan, will enjoy the chance to feed off the energy of new young friends. Usually, Duncan visits nursing homes.
“He probably likes Marley and Me,” Brown said when asked about Duncan’s favorite reading material. But he and the other dogs will listen to any book young readers choose. If children are unsure of which story to bring, the library will have a canine-friendly selection available.
The idea of dogs in the library may make some people barking mad. After all, it’s traditionally a quiet space for books, not a kennel. However, Therapy Dogs International claims that canine pals can effectively promote literacy, especially among reluctant readers.
In the explanation of its “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” reading program, Therapy Dogs International says, “By sitting down next to a dog and reading to the dog, all threats of being judged are put aside. The child relaxes, pats the attentive dog, and focuses on the reading. Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant.”
In other words, programs like Canine Book Buddies may be particularly beneficial to children who think that reading is “ruff!"
Those who would like to reserve a reading timeslot can visit the library or call 203-888-6944. Canine Book Buddies events will continue through the spring.