Children across NYC are able to read to therapy dogs in many of New York City's public libraries, and it's pretty darn adorable. I mean, just look at these pooches!
According to the Child Youth Care Forum, early research indicates reading to dogs boosts children's attention spans and reading skills, and it can also help with emotional and social skill development.
“The ultimate purpose of the program is to increase literacy and increase a love of reading, which are main missions of the New York Public Library,” says Rachel Skinner-O'Neill. She's the children's librarian at Inwood Public Library in Manhattan.
Inwood community has a really big Latino community, so we have kids who don't speak English as a first language. Fortunately, Taz (the therapy dog) is bilingual, so they can read in Spanish if they choose to.
Once a week, Taz and her handler, Elizabeth Albuquerque, come to Inwood to read books with children of all ages and ethnicities. On days the duo isn't volunteering at Inwood, she brings Taz to hospitals and visits students on university campuses across NYC.
Elizabeth is also a local kindergarten teacher, and uses that experience to inform her philosophy and teaching style within the therapy dog program.
While the kids are reading, I work on a couple of things, depending on the child. So with some children, I work on just self-esteem, and with other children I focus on vocabulary. Taz is non-judgemental. So when the kids make mistakes, they're not embarrassed or afraid, which allows them to take risks.
Many of the kids who participated seem to get into the zone within a couple of minutes. The benefits of having the dog there were obvious.
"When a dog is present the whole pressure of reading is taken off of the children. Dogs don't judge,” added Elizabeth.
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, or R.E.A.D, is run on an entirely-volunteer basis. If you're interested in learning more, check out NYPL's website.
Reading Education Assistance Dogs ® R.E.A.D.® is a program of Intermountain Therapy Animals of Salt Lake City, Utah. New York Therapy Animals is the NYC official affiliate program: www.NewYorkTherapyAnimals.org.
All R.E.A.D. therapy dog teams in NYC and the boroughs are registered with New York Therapy Animals.