Local Dogs Who Help Kids Read

July 18, 2016
May 2016 leanne iphone 060

Dogs can do a lot of things. Sniff. Snooze. Snuggle.

But can dogs help children to read?

May 2016 leanne iphone 060Yes, they can! And our local libraries make it as easy as A-B-C!

One day each month, many of our libraries welcome a canine visitor and their ‘person’ to the children’s section. Usually, a small group of children can be seen milling around in eager anticipation of this four-legged friend who they’ve come to know.

For example, at Pasadena Hastings Ranch Library, the free program is called ‘Barks and Books’. Sponsored by the Pasadena Humane Society, on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 3:30 pm, your child can read to a furry friend.

Seen here, Smokey is a therapy dog that arrives monthly.  No one need register ahead of time. In fact, your child can visit and watch from afar to see what it’s all about. Perhaps one day, they may volunteer to read a page to Smokey too!

A whole world opens up to a child once they learn to read. But getting there can be a challenge. It takes plenty of practice, and a non-judgmental listener.

That is where the dogs come in. Just look at what a great listener Smokey is! The little girl has his full attention!

A pre-selection of animal-related short stories are available to choose from. The curated books can help children understand that animals experience a range of emotions similar to their own. And that they have basic needs much like those of humans. This, in turn, encourages them to appreciate the importance of treating all animals, nonhuman and human, with respect and kindness.

Smokey will not correct ‘mistakes’. He will not get impatient. He has no expectations. And he will certainly never get bored. A perfect recipe for reading success!

These are the library locations and scheduled dates for reading to a furry friend. We just may see you there!

A note about Smokey – This is one of the sweetest pitbulls I have ever met, and I have met many. Smokey was found as a puppy in a dumpster by his forever person, pictured above. His foot was completely mangled, likely the cause of a dog attack. She considerately keeps his foot wrapped, to avoid startling the children. This sweet boy shines a light on everyone around him, I believe appreciating every moment of his wonderful life. We love you, Smokey xoxo





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  • Reply The Dash Kitten Crew December 6, 2017 at 1:00 am

    What a treasure Smokey is! Isn’t he just a gentle giant to those small and earnest kids reading to him.

    If we had more Smokeys in the past I would not be teaching adults to read and write now. Thank you for a great story.

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      The Dash Kitten Crew, LOVE that you are teaching literacy. And I just wondered, even as an adult, I’d just laugh if I looked up from my lessons to see dogs’ loving faces staring back. I’d read on, for certain. Yes, to more Smokeys!

  • Reply The Daily Pip December 6, 2017 at 7:02 am

    We have a similar program at our library and agree it is amazing program. Smokey looks so sweet and so happy he was rescued and given a second chance.

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      The Daily Pip, You are absolutely correct about Smokey’s appreciation of his second chance. I mean, this boy just gives and gives his heart away for anyone who is open. I want to melt into him – he is precious goodness, and gives so much!

  • Reply Rochelle December 6, 2017 at 7:48 am

    I LOVE THIS! And Smokey is absolutely adorable! I love that he not only can help kids learn to read, but is also a fabulous spokesdog for pitties :)

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      Yes, Smokey is a gem! I honestly could not tear myself away from him – even though he’s there for the kids!

  • Reply Hindy Pearson December 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

    What a heartwarming post! I’ve read many stories about how dogs help kids improve their reading skills, just by lying next to them and reading to them. I love that so many libraries are offering this amazing opportunity to help a greater number of kids at one time, on a regular basis.

  • Reply Joely Smith December 6, 2017 at 9:20 am

    We love Pitbulls! Our Brandy RIP was the best! I love that this library is using dogs to help children learn to read! Pets are so comforting to children, to everyone! I wish more people would be as accepting as animals are!

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      Sweet Brandy, RIP. Smokey carries the torch of spreading the love of pits. They really are the perfect audience:)

  • Reply Lori Hilliard December 6, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Our library has a similar program and it always draws a crowd of children, a few who have graduated from being readers to being assistants who help younger readers choose an appropriate book, etc. I find it interesting that the dog breed so many fear – Pit Bull – is also one of the gentlest and most patient around children. They are so sweet and forgiving!

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Lori, you are so right – pitties are the PERFECT beings for this role. For their gentle patience, as you say. AND to show the adults who have been conditioned to be concerned about them, but havent seen them up close and personal, that they’re dreamy!

  • Reply Debbie December 6, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I love programs like these! Dogs are the perfect listeners, especially for kids who are struggling with reading and are more comfortable with a non-verbal audience. Like you said, they don’t correct or feel hurried. SO cute

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      Debbie, YES! I mean, if I go slow or misread something, I only look up to see glorious encouraging eyes! I’d keep reading and not give up, for sure, with that encouragement!

  • Reply Talent Hounds December 6, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I am a big believer in the benefits of reading to dogs. We have featured several amazing dogs and programs in our Dogs Make A Difference TV episode and video series. Smokey is awesome and there is no doubt that he and dogs like him can make a big difference! Thanks for sharing the story.

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Aw, that’s fantastic to hear that such amazing dogs are being featured in Dogs Make A Difference! Thank you, Talent Hounds!

  • Reply Carleen December 6, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I love all the stories about kids reading to dogs. I think it is great! The kids get practice and the dogs get attention and training. Wonderful all around!

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      It is a win/win, isn’t it, Carleen! More SMOKEY!

  • Reply Ruth Epstein December 6, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I think these programs are just amazing for everyone, its a win win situation and one that should be done all over the country plus it teaches children so much, thanks for sharing about it.

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Ruth, I hear it happening more and more these days, so I think the word is out about the success of these programs – yay!

  • Reply Paul Kirhagis December 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Aww, I love seeing this! Having a pup give their full and undivided attention to a kid learning to read probably makes a huge difference!

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Paul, I totally agree! Remember when we learned to read? I remember the pressure, and I was lucky enough to be good at it. I can only imagine for someone struggling. AND the dogs will always be interested in hearing the same story for the tenth time!

  • Reply Sweet Purrfections December 6, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Anything that can encourage and help a child read is great for me! The added bonus of having a loving dog close by while reading is wonderful.

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      Sweet Purrfections! Books and Dogs, yes, two of our favorite things too!

  • Reply Jana Rade December 6, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Expectations … that’s where most things break down, isn’t it? Expectations when it comes to kids, expectations when it comes to dogs …

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Jana, indeed. Live in the present and let it be:)

  • Reply Sandy Kubillus December 6, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Reading programs for kids to read to dogs are fantastic! Smokey seems like such a sweet dog. And your teaching kids that pit bulls aren’t all bad.

  • Reply Sherri December 6, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    This is so beautiful. The more I find out about what people are doing to pit bulls… the angrier I get. It’s an organized crime issue where I live. However, Smoky has a good story. Just yesterday I told my College-level class to practice their presentations in front of their dogs…

    • Reply leanne December 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Sherri! Practice their presentations in front of their dogs – of course! Yes, that’s the same idea, isn’t it? They’ll listen, be patient and always give kisses afterwards:) Great idea!

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