Reading to Dogs, a Comforting Tool for Reluctant Readers & Animal Lovers
HARRISBURG, Pa.— Man’s furry, four-legged best friend has a new job at The Library. For the first time during the school year, Dauphin County Library System’s East Shore Area location welcomes children to attend Paws2Read, a special program encouraging youth to build reading confidence while sharing stories with certified therapy dogs. The program is held the second Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m.
Led by Maureen Mashas, a certified speech pathologist for Rutherford and Paxtang Elementary Schools, Paws2Read began after Mashas saw the positive effects that reading to dogs had on her students. She approached The Library to launch the program during the summer of 2011, and currently volunteers with Petey, her 5-year-old Maltese poodle. Having seen great results from the summer sessions, Mashas and The Library decided to expand the program for the first time this school year.
“Paws2Read is a great program for all children, but especially those who might be struggling with learning to read and those who think, ‘not another book,’” said Mashas. “Attendees can read at their own pace, and the dogs offer soft and comforting companions to listen.”
During the session, children select books of interest and then take turns reading to the certified therapy dogs. Incorporating a dog as part of storytime also encourages students to talk about emotional themes discussed in the book. The dogs serve as theoretical puppets on which to place emotions, opening the dialogue to difficult conversations such as bullying, winning and losing and developing stronger social skills.
Lower Paxton Township resident Teresa Gnall enrolled her 9-year-old daughter, Victoria, in the program because she loves animals and wanted to help build Victoria’s confidence.
“Victoria has always loved reading, but she was a bit shy before joining the Paws2Read program,” said Teresa. “We’ve seen great strides in her self-confidence, and she now even leads her class in reading aloud at North Side Elementary School.”
Victoria’s father Mike also noted that Paws2Read is a great activity for children who might need extra encouragement to read, as the dogs are comforting listeners that won’t criticize for slower reading or mispronunciation.
“Cultivating a love of reading in our community’s children is a key to the success of our future,” said Christina Lauver, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for The Library. “We are very thankful to Maureen and other community members for donating their time to the program, and look forward to strengthening the education of our youth together.”
To learn more about Paws2Read and additional youth programming offered at The Library, visit dcls.org. To register and schedule a Paws2Read session, call 717-566-0949, ext. 217.