Michigan dogs helping young readers learn

DETROIT, MI (WDIV/CNN) – A Detroit program pairs young kids with a four legged reading buddy in the hopes that they’ll gain confidence in their reading skills.

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. Any student 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, so if they’re used to being frustrated in the school by reading, it’s a new space and a new way to try,” Kate DeMeaster, Dir., Assistant Central Library said.

“It helps me get smarter,” 7-year-old Collin Smith said.

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

“Dogs are very good listeners and dogs are very friendly,” Collin said.

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,” Reader Dog Program creator Vickey Bloom said.

The Reader Dog Program is now in its 11th year and really taking off.

Each therapy dog is accompanied by their handler.

The child reader can bring their own book or read one from the library for a 30-minute period, and the dogs sure do enjoy story time.

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

Results show that as these students head back to school, they’re more confident in their reading skills and willing to participate in class. And it helps make reading fun.

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