Library hosts dog therapy reading program

Published 6:55 pm Saturday, August 13, 2016

Several children read to some furry friends at the Morgan Memorial Library on Saturday afternoon.

Books And Reading for Kids in Suffolk, the Suffolk Humane Society’s reading program, allows children to read to dogs in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment.

“There is no criticism, no one to giggle, and you see the inhibitions go away,” said Mary-Beth Moore, a volunteer with the society.

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The program has been credited with improving reading test scores and communications skills, according to Moore.

Amanda Young, one of the parents in attendance, said she has noticed improvements in her sons’ reading and communication skills.

“Both of my sons have speech issues and being able to interact with the dogs has been really good,” she said. “This is good practice for their speaking skills in between school.”

Shawn Hill, another parent in attendance, said he had “never heard of a program about reading to dogs, but feels it will build more confidence in his sons.”

“The dogs are cool and reading to them is cool,” said Shawn’s son, Calvin, 9.

The Suffolk Humane Society, founded in 2007, has offered the BARKS program for more than five years. The society originally hosted the program at a local church. Since then, it has expanded to all of the city’s library branches, several elementary schools and Sentara Obici Hospital.

Moore recalled a student whose reading and communication skills have drastically improved after several years in BARKS program.

“She used to be very shy, but over the years her confidence has improved and now she always wants to read more,” she said.

The three dogs at the event were Sandy, Pete and Dottie. Pete, a 9-year-old Labrador mix, has been involved in reading therapy since he was just 13 months old.

“This is one of our best programs for the children,” said Shawna LoMonaco, Morgan Memorial Library assistant. “This is also wonderful for children that may have a fear of dogs to be in a safe environment.”