Kids read to dogs in program at Jackson County Public Library

For children, reading in front of the class or others can be scary.

Feelings of failure or fear of embarrassment plays a part in a child’s reluctance to read.

Now, there is a program that the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour is paws-itively excited to start up once again. Instead of reading to people, children have the opportunity to share the book they are reading with a dog.

The Paws to Read program is one of many library programs around the country that started with struggling readers in mind.

Grace Furlow, who is in charge of the program, has noticed a reluctance to read can cause a struggling reader to fall further behind.

“We see reluctance in reading because of embarrassment, frustration and/or the fear of failure. Reading to a dog is safe and comforting. It also allows them to fail and try again without worrying about disappointing anyone,” Furlow said.

She said these obedience-trained dogs are nonjudgmental and soothing to pet and will be a comforting energy, easing any anxiety a child may have when reading.

“Reading books, the love to a furry friend can help increase their comfort reading aloud, learning new vocabulary and increase their fluency,” she said.

The Jackson County Library already knew how important reading is to future academic success, and in recent years, the iREAD-3 test made it even more critical to offer intervention. The library and Furlow found that the Paws to Read program was the perfect intervention they could offer for the community through the safe place they provide.

“I idolize the ultimate goal behind bringing children and dogs together for the greater good,” Furlow said.

She said they have already seen success as they watch children grow out of the program and become excellent readers.

Furlow plans to run this program as long as they have dogs and children to read to them. Some of the dogs that have been coming to the library for years are older and not able to come anymore. Since starting up the program, they have added more dogs to the program.

They are still looking for volunteers with obedience or therapy trained dogs, and any dogs they currently use for the program they keep their vaccination records on file.

The program typically has around 10 kids and up to seven dogs in attendance with registration available for up to 15 people.

The program is running from January to April with a summer schedule still in the works. They will start up the program again and run it through September to November. Children must be in kindergarten through fifth grade and have an adult in the building if they are 9 years old or under.

“We are in the business of developing relationships between people and reading in all its forms. We are passionate about it. Bringing in the doggies simply adds a whole new level of love,” Furlow said.