by Brad McNally, Head Editor, INALJ Ohio
Unique Library Programs: The Listening Dog
I’ve seen this at many libraries, but I was lucky enough to work at a library where this program was already occurring on a regular basis. Although I have moved on from that library, I’m glad to say that their Listening Dog program is still going on regularly and helping more children. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, here is the basic information how our program worked:
A therapy dog (which is different from a service dog) comes into the library. We had him go into a quiet area that was empty other than his blanket and owner (for example, an empty conference room). Kids signed up for 15 minute time slots during his weekly visit and were able to bring a book to read aloud to him.
This sounds kind of fun, but here are some of the great benefits that came along with it:
A therapy dog is trained to listen. He won’t judge, he will just listen. For reluctant readers, this is a big deal. He doesn’t mind if you mispronounce a word, and more importantly, he isn’t going to correct you. This lets the reader be comfortable and work through it on their own, which strengthens their skills.
Some children already love books, and that is great. Some, on the other hand, aren’t so sure. By allowing them to connect something fun for them (dogs are pretty cool!) and allowing them to pick any book they are interested in to bring, it makes the activity enjoyable. The more they enjoy reading this time, the more they are going to enjoy it in the future.
Often, therapy dogs have to complete so many hours of service. This means that they are likely volunteers that are bringing in their trained dogs for your patrons benefit. While this saves the library some money, it also means that the therapy dog owners benefit because they have a steady schedule of hours for their service. It is a win-win situation.
This is (by far) one of the easiest to plan programs after the initial setup. Due to the nature of the program, it lends itself to being a continuous program (read to the therapy dog each week, for example) but the change is that new kids come in, not that the program changes. This means you have time and energy for other amazing programs that you will be doing, right!?
Check locally for a therapy dog near you – it may become your (unofficial) library mascot!