ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – Reading is an important part to a child’s education, but for some children it can be a daunting task. So, to help young readers, the Athens Limestone Public Library partnered with Huntsville-based non-profit, Therapy Partners, to bring dogs in for children to read to.
Therapy Partners consists of 40 volunteer therapy animal teams and they make visits to schools, hospitals, assisted living centers, and even libraries across the Tennessee Valley. Their goal is to give people a sense of comfort.
Mindy Edge trained her dog, Bogey, to be a therapy dog. She told News 19 the program allows her to make other people’s day a little better.
“Therapy Partners brings joy and comfort to different facilities in our community,” Edge explained.
In August 2021 the non-profit started working with the library by hosting an event where children learned how to greet dogs and what to do when approached by aggressive dogs. The event was a success and led the library to find more ways to incorporate dogs into their youth programs. Now, kids come in, choose a book, get paired with a furry friend and read to them, alongside the human handler.
The Youth Services Coordinator for the library, Amanda Coleman, told News 19 that for some children this experience gives them the confidence to read out loud.
“We’ve had a lot of parents come to us and tell us their child has dyslexia or their child has autism and this has really given them confidence in themselves because no one is laughing if they make a mistake,” Coleman stated. “Also, the dog is eating it up, so that’s been wonderful.”
Each session lasts about 15 minutes and the therapy partner helps the child when they come across words they do not know how to say. Both Coleman and Edge said its a feeling of relief for the readers knowing the dog will not judge them if they stumble.
“They enjoy reading to a non-judgmental being, and then they are relaxed through petting them. It just gives them a sense of calmness,” Edge shared with News 19.
The program happens in Athens on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. But Therapy Partners says they also have summer reading programs at Huntsville-Madison County libraries this summer.
For more information on the program and a link to sign up you can visit the libraries website here.