By Smarty Guest Blogger, Maeve Dodds, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Children patiently wait in University City Regional Library’s Reading Nook for Carlene and Gracie to walk in to start reading. Gracie is the Library’s reading therapy dog; children take turns practicing reading aloud to our furry library friend. Carlene has gone through great lengths to have Gracie properly trained to exhibit a calm, peaceful atmosphere for children so they can feel confident reading aloud.
Paws to Read is a great way to instill confidence while reading aloud. Many children, and even adults, have a fear of reading out loud, but this program is a great way for school-aged children to perfect their skills at reading. All human and canine volunteers are certified by Intermountain Therapy Animals and their affiliate R.E.A.D. (Reading Educational Assistance Dogs) Program, or another certified program. The purpose for reading therapy animals is to enhance a child’s life and reading skills through a human-animal bond. Paws to Read is also a great way to fight through the summer slide, which is a loss of literacy skills that results when children are away from school during the summer months, and counts towards Summer Break reading hours for the library. And, what is more fun than reading to a furry dog?
This fun program is offered at various branches throughout the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system and has been in place for many years. It was first introduced at the Morrison branch, but is now offered regularly at 10 Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branches (Davidson, Hickory Grove, ImaginOn, Independence, Mint Hill, Matthews, Scaleybark, South County, Steele Creek and University City. The program is pretty simple in concept. During 15-minute sessions, children boost reading skills and confidence by reading to a certified therapy dog. Most participants are school-age children, and many students who participate are extremely shy about their reading abilities. Interested in finding a Paws to Read program near you? Be sure to check out the library’s calendar, as each branch offers this program on different days and times. Some branches require registration to attend.
At University City Regional Library, Carlene has been volunteering for many years, and has seen children grow from small, timid readers to confident middle grade readers. She has helped train various volunteers and therapy dogs who volunteer throughout the system. Even though her other dogs, Tessie and Toby, have passed, their legacy of preparing early readers lives on. Carlene and her dog’s service to Charlotte Mecklenburg Library goes beyond just volunteering, she has become a part of the library family, but also our community.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with the Library, please contact the Volunteer Point Person (VPP) at your local branch. To participate in the Paws to Read program, volunteers must have their own dog. Please direct any additional questions to Chauna Walls at email@example.com.