South Carolina libraries which want to use therapy dogs to encourage reading can get help from the SC State Library.
“We’re excited to launch it here in South Carolina,” State Library spokeswoman Ellen Dunn said. Dunn also participates in the Therapy Dogs International program.
“Tail Waggin’ Tutors” is administered through Therapy Dogs International and provides therapy dogs trained so that children can read aloud to them.
“Children, sometimes, are much more at ease with reading when they’re able to read to a dog,” Dunn said. “It just helps to make them feel like it’s a more welcoming environment. It makes them feel like it’s a more comfortable environment and they also experience the joy of reading more.”
Dunn’s own Australian Shepherd named Katie is a certified therapy dog.
“Animals are able to establish a connection with children that other humans cannot,” she said. “There’s just that sense of ‘I’m not going to judge you. I just want to be with you,’ and the kids grasp that immediately. We do see a difference in kids.”
Dunn said individual schools and libraries throughout South Carolina have offered similar programs, but she wants to make it available to any institution. The program helps libraries set up their own programs and teaches how to attract handlers and the particular certifications needed for dogs.
“I’m happy to take my dog Katie out to different libraries and schools and offer that service whenever I’m available as well,” Dunn said, noting the response has been “amazing.”
“This is such a fabulous program because we do see a difference in kids,” Dunn said. “They all of a sudden feel like they can be themselves and they don’t have to worry about ‘if I stutter over a word,’ or maybe ‘I don’t know how to pronounce a word.’… The more joyous they become about the process of reading, which improves their skills so that they’re able to take that into the classroom. I can see how much good animals can do in the community and the blessings they bring.”
To contact Dunn about establishing the program at your library, community center or school, contact her at 803-734-0462 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for a link to the South Carolina State Library.