I took my kids to the library and they read books to a dog.
It wasn’t just any dog, it was Wilson, an 8 month-old trainee guide dog who had been invited to the Mt Albert Library to listen to children read.
Despite what you may be thinking, the library hasn’t gone to the dogs – this is a novel approach to encourage children to enjoy reading in a fun environment – after all, dogs don’t judge.
It’s believed contact with gentle animals gives people comfort and helps them feel happier, and dogs and cats are being used as therapy pets in New Zealand, in hospitals and rest homes.
There are also a few reading to dogs programmes in New Zealand, including the organisation Bark NZ which has a one-to-one reading programme for a child to read to a dog, to promote confidence in reading and improve literacy skills. Our local library initiative is with a local guide dog trainer.
But will a dog sit still and listen to a child read?
Even I find that a difficult task. My children love reading, and I enjoy reading to them. But when it comes to listening to them read, my mind drifts. At the end of a day when we sit on the couch to read the books that come home from school, I have to dig-deep to muster patience and zip my lips.
A little person takes time to sound out new combinations of the alphabet, joining them together slowly into a word. Parents are told not to hurry the process, not to interrupt too much, to be encouraging, to let the children say the words.
Reading aloud is an important part of children’s learning and if a dog can do the listening duty I’m all for it.
We don’t have any pets at home and my children love dogs, so our visit to the library had been much anticipated.
Wilson must’ve had a busy day, because he slept through the three readings my children gave (I read for my four year-old). Wilson’s minder said this state was easier than him being awake, and I wished in that moment his eyes would open.
We were sitting on a plastic chequered mat next to Wilson who was on a beanbag. My eight year-old was first to read, and although barely audible he took his opportunity seriously and was delighted by the experience. Next up, my six year-old read louder and learned the word ‘remarkable’. My four year-old tried to pry open Wilson’s eyes.
We thoroughly enjoyed our reading to dogs experience, and were offered a 30 minute session next time we book to allow each child more time with Wilson.
Our local library’s initiative is a great one, and it’s free, so thank you Wilson for giving my children a memorable reading experience.