Book + Dog = Reader
The Paws for a Story program is in almost every public library in Edmonton now. It's fantastic. The kids can pick any book they want and choose which animal they want to read stories to. It facilitates conversation, so the worker with the animal can say, "Oh, Rusty didn’t really hear that word very well. Can you say it again?" Reading to animals, the kids have no problem when they make mistakes. Dogs aren't judgmental. They're just there. Some owners even train their dogs to put a foot on the page. There's technique in it, and at the same time it's really just the presence of an animal.
I watched a boy - he was around 12 - who'd never seen this before. There were about 5 dogs in the room. His mom was pushing him, "Just go in, just go in." And he's going "Ah no, too old for this." Too manly, you know. Mom finally gets him in there and there's this big collie cross. "Okay, I’ll just go say hi." They go over and pet the dog. A couple of minutes later he sorta sits down. Next thing you know, his comic book is kinda opening and he's just kinda leaning into the dog and kinda reading a little bit, you know, just to himself. Not reading to the dog...that would be childish.
I think I was in the library for an hour and the kid never moved.
His mom came back to get him and he’s like "What?" And she’s like "It’s time to go now." So he sighs. He puts his comic book down and stomps out. "Well, we need to come back again you know." She says, "Yeah, okay. Are you sure?" He's like, "Well yeah. We gotta come back and visit them."
So a reluctant reader got swayed by a bunch of dogs they got for little kids. It's just the power of books and the power of animals and getting them together. I love it.
Rachel Sentes is a writer, photographer, publicist, singer, and literary agent in training. She will rescue any animal in need: "They seem to know my car, because a lot of animals cross in front of it and they're always strays." Rachel lives with her dogs Lucy, Daisy, and Pumpkin, Sweetie the guinea pig (who is Pumpkin's special friend), and Bubo the bunny who loves the dogs.