Written by Kelly Sheehy, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library For over a decade kids across the county have practiced their reading skills at the Library with a few unconventional (and furry) tutors—therapy dogs! Tales to Tails events engage official Library volunteers who have undergone a rigorous certification program with their dog through one of several national organizations like Therapy Dogs International. Volunteers and their pups typically live nearby and frequent the event at their nearest Branch Library. In about 10-15 minutes sessions, or however long it takes to get through a standard picture book, each child has the therapy dog’s undivided attention as they read the story aloud. The dog’s handler is nearby to make sure everything goes smoothly with the interaction. The goal of Tales to Tails is a simple one: to provide a positive, calm reading environment where kids feel comfortable practicing their reading skills in front of someone who won’t judge them (but may or may not slobber). “Kids love the program because it gives them an opportunity to read out loud to a non-judgmental, friendly listener—and the opportunity to pet a dog while doing it,” said Lisa Soper, the Library’s Youth Services & Programming Coordinator. “It can be a low-stress, confidence-boosting experience for reluctant or struggling readers. The dogs don’t laugh at them if they stumble on a word, or correct them if they mispronounce something. An additional bonus is that the dogs are very calm and have a good temperament, so it can also be a positive experience for children who may fear dogs based on past experiences.” According to Dr. David E. Williams, Chief Medical Officer with Pet Partners, “Research has shown the presence of a relaxed canine companion can reduce stress, lower heart rate, and reduce other observable signs of anxiety. […] Dogs can ease loneliness, foster trust, improve communication, improve cognitive functioning, reduce the need for medication by providing a distraction from pain, and provide motivation for a patient’s quick recovery.” “Research conducted by Jalongo and Rench showed in 2004 that the presence of a calm, well-trained dog offers a unique form of social support, stress reduction and enhanced self-esteem to the adolescent reader,” says Williams. “More confidence in reading often leads to improved grades, and improved grades mean happy children and parents and ultimately hopefully even adults who will be able to care for themselves and positively contribute to society.” Visit our events calendar to see where a Tales to Tails storytime is happening near you. Are you an animal-loving adult? J oin us December 5 at the Downtown Main Library for holiday de-stressing with therapy dogs and even a therapy guinea pig! We’ll have crafts and sweet animals to pe at 12 p.m. in the Reading Garden.