Therapy Dogs Encourage Reading at Neighborhood Libraries!

By Meredith M. RSS Mon, March 5, 2018

Every Monday at the Falls of Schuylkill Library around 4:15 p.m., our Children’s Department welcomes two special visitors. Wally and Orchid, while there to hear some stories and make new friends, are not your regular storytime attendees—they are both trained therapy dogs! They visit the library to help our school-age readers become more comfortable with reading out loud.

Wally and Orchid are both members of Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer organization focused on bringing certified therapy dogs to places they are needed, such as hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. Every dog must pass an evaluation to be part of the program. The goal of Therapy Dogs International’s reading program is to provide a relaxed and friendly environment for students to practice their reading skills in a calm, non-judgmental space.

Reading to therapy dogs is a popular program at libraries across the country and with good reason—students who read to therapy dogs begin to have more positive experiences and better associations with reading, which help their academic performance and self-confidence inside and outside the classroom.

Our after-school students are always excited when one of the dogs shows up and their confidence visibly grows after reading to them. Some children are initially hesitant to sit down to read their chosen book aloud but after a few times sharing a story, they sit on the rug with their book in hand, waiting for their turn to read. Wally and Orchid are always happy to hear the stories the children want to share with them.

As for the perfect book to read to one of our therapy dogs, I highly recommend Lisa Papp’s Madeline Finn and the Library Dog. It’s a wonderful picture book about the confidence children can gain when they practice reading to a dog in the library.

Have a child who is interested in reading to a therapy dog? Several neighborhood libraries across the city hold Read to a Dog programs. View our Events Calendar for the next program happening near you and feel free to stop by Falls at Schuylkill Library and read to Wally and Orchid—they’ll be happy to meet you!

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Great article! Wally and I love our visits to the library and love listening to the children read to us! Thanks Meredith for the article.
Elaine Frank - Mt. Airy
Thursday, March 8, 2018

love dogs need tto reed becouse i wish for aservice dog
zory - philadelphia
Monday, March 12, 2018

Recently I visited my nephew and noticed he was having some struggles with reading, and I was looking into ways I could make learning to read easier or more fun. After coming across this article, I was very happy to see that therapy dogs are being utilized to help children read. When a child reads to a dog, it makes the experience more positive and helps their self confidence outside the classroom, and I will share this information with my sister to help with her son's reading issues.
Jocelyn McDonald
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Good morning, My name is Erin, Youth Services Librarian at the Wissahickon Valley Public Library. Can you tell me how your Read To a Dog program is organized? We have had it here before, but want some ideas from others who have done it. What has worked/doesn't work for you? Thank you so much!! Erin
Erin Mazzoni - Blue Bell
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hi! I am a second grade teacher at the Francis Scott Key Elementary School in South Philadelphia. I would love to bring therapy dogs to our school for children to read to them. Do you know of any programs for Philadelphia public schools. I could do an in-school program or after school program. Thanks! MJ
Mary Jane Thompson - Philadelphia
Sunday, August 25, 2019

Hi Mary Jane - I recommend reaching out to Therapy Dogs International for information about therapy dogs visiting your school. Both of our dogs here at Falls work with that particular organization.
Meredith McGovern
Monday, August 26, 2019