Reader Dog Program pairs young readers with faithful listeners

DETROIT - Seven-year-old Collin Smith is sharpening his reading skills by reading out loud to his best friend -- man's best friend to be exact.

It's part of the Reader Dog Program at Grosse Pointe Public Libraries. Students in kindergarten through fifth-grade practice reading to dogs. The reason why is simple, it's less embarrassing than reading out loud on the classroom while they're still learning how. 

"It's also an environment that's away from the school environment," said Assistant Central Library Director Kate DeMeester. "So if they're used to being frustrated in the school by reading, it's a new space and a new way to try."

Collin and his 5-year-old brother, Ronan, enjoy reading to their furry friends. 

"Dogs are very good listeners and dogs are very friendly," Smith said. "It helps me get smarter."

The boys have their own dog at home, but these are special therapy dogs at the library. They're better trained and calmer than your typical house pet.

"They're very tame, quiet, calm. I don't believe a cat would sit and listen to you read, nor would a bird probably, so dogs make sense," said Reader Dog Program creator Vickey Bloom.

Each therapy dog is accompanied by it's handler. The child reader can bring their own book or read one from the library for a 30-minute period.

"The dogs absolutely know what's going on," said DeMeeater. "When they get here, they're excited to come. They love to see all the people, whether it's staff or kids, they're super happy to be here and they just love all the attention."

Results show that as these students head back to school, they're more confident in their reading skills and willing to participate in class.

The Reader Dog Program is now in it's eleventh year and is really taking off.

For more info on the program, visit:

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