Reading went to the dogs in West Deptford.
The PAWS for Reading Program held its kickoff party on Wednesday night at West Deptford Free Public Library. About 50 children registered to read to a dog.
PAWS for Reading is a program run by PAWS for People, a nonprofit group that uses animals such as dogs, cats and rabbits to perform a range of various therapeutic activities for children and adults.
PAWS' reading program travels to different libraries, where children can come read to a pet. The goal is to help give the children more confidence in their reading abilities. Dogs are able to do that because of their caring nature.
Sharon Bednar, the New Jersey coordinator for PAWS for People, said 30 children came out for the first night of the program on Feb. 13. That night, PAWS only brought five dogs along. On Wednesday, the organization brought 11.
“They've been phenomenal,” Bednar said about West Deptford. “The turnout has been incredible.”
The library's children's section was packed with children and parents as they moved around the room, going from dog to dog with various books. Handlers were set up at different stations with dogs, small and large.
A table with dog books was laid out for the children to choose from if they wished, though the kids could pick out any book that they wanted to read. Once they completed reading a book to a dog, they were given a card, as well as stickers and bookmarks. All of the children who participated were allowed to take home a balloon and treats as well.
Beyond the goodies, however, there was clear evidence that many of the children were not only enjoying the experience, but also learning from it. The kids, of various ages and reading levels, were able to read a book at their own pace and without any pressure. The entire experience made reading fun.
“They love it,” Bednar remarked about the kids. “You can tell with the smiles on their faces.”
PAWS for Reading is now a regular program at the library. The group will be in the children's section from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.
In order to participate, parents must register their children in advance. The program is free for all children. To register, for a future date, call the library at 856-845-5593. Visit the PAWS for Reading website for more information on the program.