Doc isn’t your average librarian. Upon entering the library he is greeted with excited but confused faces. A quick stroll over to the circulation desk ends in wet-nosed greetings and a wagging tail.
Doc is one of six therapy dogs the Oldham County Public Library utilizes for their PAWs to Read program. The program allows readers of all levels to sit with a trained therapy dog and read aloud to build literacy skills.
“It’s designed to allow kids to read to a non-judgmental listener,” children’s librarian Melinda Fox said.
For Noelle Gosnell, PAWs to Read is a way to get her first grade daughter, Rachel, interested in books. Gosnell and Rachel travel from Jefferson County to take part in the program.
After hearing about the program from her sister-in-law, Gosnell signed Rachel up online and the pair have made two trips to the program.
“I’ve always loved reading and my daughter struggles, but loves animals,” Gosnell said. “So anything I can do to combine reading and something she loves is a good thing.”
PAWs to Read is a volunteer run program. After running the program successfully for a few years, the library lost its volunteer dogs and went two years with no dogs. Now, the program is growing and is always looking to add puppy partners, Fox said.
Participants in the program sign up on the library’s website to guarantee their spot. Each session with the therapy dog lasts 15 minutes. The sessions are free and take place throughout the week and participants are encouraged to bring their own reading materials. Sessions usually take place on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday and exact times are available from the library.
Kara Thompson Wright brings her four-year-old son Xavier to the program often. While Xavier cannot read yet, he practices flash cards with letters and numbers printed on them.
“Anytime he sees an animal he wants to share letters with them,” Thompson Wright said.
One of Xavier’s favorite dogs is Joe Cocker, a cocker spaniel owned by Jessica Gaines Jarboe of Jefferson County.
Gaines Jarboe brings Joe Cocker over to participate in PAWs to Read to “share his love,” she said. Joe is a trained therapy dog and is known to nod off during sessions at the library, Gaines Jarboe said.
Once when Xavier was going over flash cards, Joe Cocker started to fall asleep. Xavier promptly woke Joe up saying, “Wake up, this is very important,” Thompson Wright said.
Xavier is just one of the many children PAWs has helped, Fox said. One of her favorite success stories comes from a kindergartner. After not showing an interest in reading, the child’s mother knew her daughter was an animal lover and brought her daughter in to spend time in the program. After attending multiple sessions, the daughter was reading at a second grade level, Fox said.
For more information on the program visit the library’s website www.oldhampl.org and click children’s under the programs tab.