Working in partnership with area libraries throughout Miami-Dade, the Therapy Dogs committee share their certified Therapy dog teams in order to help children connect with books and develop a love of reading.
According to “Paws to Read,” Children who read aloud to a therapy dog on a regular basis demonstrate drastic improvements in their reading skills! Animals provide a safe, non-judgmental presence for struggling readers. Sharing books with furry supporters helps children to:
- Sustain concentration and focus
- Maintain a higher level of awareness
- Improve attitudes toward school
- Increase reading comprehension and fluency
- Expand their use of vocabulary and language
- Boost confidence and pride in their reading skills
- Cultivate a higher motivation for reading and learning
- Foster positive social interactions
- Feel more comfortable about learning
- Enjoy the experience of reading
League members Alexis Bucelo, Monique Huynh, and Amanda Ratigan, along with their therapy dogs (Tux, Sully, and Sprocket), visited the residents and staff of Ronald McDonald House on December 18, 2014 for a special therapy dog Holiday visit.
From the Fall 2013 JLM Journal
JLM & PAWS 2 READ: A BARKING SUCCESS AT THE MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM!
By Ellen Book
When you think about the word – library – you may think books, wood shelving, computers, librarians, but dogs? Yes, dogs. Dogs are now part of the library’s image and these furry four-legged pets have created a ton of goodwill and a passion for reading for children who have difficulty reading out loud in public.
Junior League of Miami members – who are devoted dog lovers and whose dogs have earned therapy dog certification – began a unique reading program at the Pinecrest Branch Library – the Paws 2 Read Program. Since 2008, a parade of doggies, owners and a committed group of children meet once a month to practice their reading skills. The purpose of the program is to give children the opportunity to get comfortable about reading out loud in public. Often times, when a child is forced to learn, especially in an environment where the spotlight is on them, they may feel frustrated or get agitated. When a child can’t keep up or on catch on quickly enough their self-esteem is bruised and their confidence damaged. Interacting with therapy dogs immediately calms them down so they can start to learn. Timid readers begin to blossom when there is “creature comfort”within reach and while this seems to be just ‘canine social time,’ it allows children to begin to express themselves without fear of judgment or failure.
The Junior League’s partnership in the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Paws 2 Read program has garnered kudos from parents, children and curious library patrons who pass by and see the furry creatures enjoying a good book! For the 20 children who participate in the 90-minute program, they first respond to their furry friend’s cuteness and then gradually move into opening a book to share a story with their new buddy. Parents are able monitor their child’s reading skills: word knowledge, word retention and ease of reading while observing the interaction between their child and the dog.
In 2009, the original Pinecrest pups were split up into four teams of three dogs to make the program available in more branches. The Homestead, Edison and Model City Branches now offer the program in response to the success at Pinecrest and the benefits of seeing children improve in their reading abilities. There is no doubt that the Paws 2 Read program is a great motivational tool. It compels children to want to visit the library. While not all of the children need the dogs to help them with reading, the dogs are wonderful to have around for curious kids to pet and cuddle with!
Certainly, the picture of the library and what a library means to people has evolved. It’s now a meeting place, a community space, a learning center and a neighborhood retreat. The Miami-Dade Public Library System is grateful to the Junior League’s Paws 2 Read program because it helps children who struggle with reading by providing a safe and comfortable setting. The Library System appreciates the caring volunteers who devote their time and spirit by patiently sharing their pets with the children.
For information about the Paws 2 Read, or any other library program, call 305-668-4571 or visit www.mdpls.org