Our PAWS for Reading program is a partnership of reading and animal-assisted therapy teams. It offers young readers a place and time to read aloud to therapy animals. Children who have hated reading find that it can be fun with listeners who are uncritical reading partners. Practicing literacy skills with their listening animals provides a comfortable, non-threatening environment for children who are nervous and self-conscious about reading aloud. Trained therapy animals make great listeners who help children gain confidence about their reading and improve their reading skills. Reading to therapy animals is a powerful method to improve communication as well as literacy skills.
All the listening animals are certified pet therapy animals owned, trained and handled by volunteer members of DOGTORS—Animal-Assisted Therapy Teams. The teams training includes safety measures as well as the best ways to interact with people. Though efforts are made to reduce allergens, PAWS for Reading remains unsuitable for children with severe allergies or asthma. DOGTORS commitment is to remain 100% focused on providing the best Animal-Assisted Therapy Teams in the country! DOGTORS operates solely as an all-volunteer community service, which means class fees and other charges are established only to offset the expenses. A secondary goal for our PAWS for Reading program is to encourage the formation of new therapy teams. The work they do is a valuable contribution to our community. You can find out more information about our wonderful partners at www.dogtors.com and you can contact them by calling 937-323-0925 or 937-284-0602.
You can also reach them by e-mailing at DOGTORSAAT@GMAIL.COM.
PAWS Reading Saturdays
For two Saturdays, children take a book to a reading area and read aloud to one of the therapy animals. We require registration to reserve a twenty minute reading time. Usually, the schedule fills up quickly and we take names for a waiting list. We encourage attendance for both sessions in order to get the most benefit from the program. Readers can bring their own book or choose one of the books we’ll have ready. The next PAWS Reading Saturdays are April 6 and 20, 2019.
PAWS Game Day
There is no reading April 13, 2019, just 2 PAWS-itively fun hours of dog themed games, activities, crafts, and prizes. Registration is not required.
PAWS Reading Buddies
Mechanicsburg Public Library launched an extension of our PAWS for Reading program April 20, 2013 with the help of local donors and the Wal-Mart Foundation. Just like our PAWS therapy animals, our new PAWS Reading Buddies offer young readers a fun way to practice their reading skills by reading aloud to uncritical reading partners. PAWS Reading Buddies are soft and cuddly full-bodied puppets. They love to listen to children read to them. “Pet sit” for us by visiting the Mechanicsburg Public Library and borrowing Bernadette, Howie, or Dexter and go on reading adventures. Each PAWS Reading Buddy comes in its own backpack with a journal to record your time together. We’d love a photo record of you reading together at home, in the car, or wherever you travel together in the 2 weeks you borrow a PAWS Reading Buddy.
The very first year Mechanicsburg Public Library presented our PAWS for Reading program was in 2003. We began with dogs and children sitting on the floor in a partitioned area of the meeting room to read together. Our first efforts to create a comfortable, relaxing place to read included the addition of cushions and blankets over the carpet. Each year we look at ways to improve the program. In 2006, we built oversize dog houses for the dogs and children to sit in while they read. In 2009, we added a special area for our very first listening cat. A partitioned area with a big comfy cat bed was arranged for our readers in the children’s area. In 2013, thanks to a Wal-Mart Foundation grant, we made improvements to the cat reading area. We made a tent for the children and cat to go inside and read instead of a partitioned area. Every year we’ve made improvements to the areas where the children read to the therapy animals as time, help, and finances allow. We appreciate the donations of time and money that make these spaces inviting places to read.
In 2007, we began a partnership with Dohron Wilson Elementary School by visiting there with therapy teams from Dogtors. The PAWS School Visit offers students the opportunity to briefly enjoy the experience of reading to the dogs...so far no cats… and learn about the program. Early registration is available to these students for the PAWS Reading Saturdays.