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If you haven’t visited your local public library in a while, you might be surprised to hear that some libraries in the state are barking about a great program for children. At the Springdale Public Library, we visited a recent session of their Kibbles & Books program where we saw children interacting and reading with dogs of all kinds. The dogs are all privately owned, nationally-certified therapy dogs who come in with their owners twice a month to sit with kids and be loved on. Oh, how wonderful to be a dog!
Wiggles enjoys being read to by Evan, age 6 and Becca, age 9.
According to Erin Renollet, Children’s Services librarian, the purpose of Kibbles & Books is to build confidence in young readers; it provides children with a safe, quiet and comfortable space to work on their reading skills with a very willing partner to listen. The program is for children of all ages and abilities; some choose to read and some just want to visit with the dogs. In fact, Renollet recalls a young patron who was terrified of dogs due to a traumatic childhood experience. The girl participated in the Kibbles & Books program to help overcome her fear of dogs.
Kibbles & Books was established as a year-round program at the Springdale Public Library five years ago. The program has excellent support from the community, with 200 children and 138 adults participating last year alone. Renollet said that they see many of the same kids return for multiple sessions. “Some children connect with a particular dog and bond with it,” she adds. The library has even set up a mail station where children can write letters to their favorite dogs, then drop them in the doggie mailbox.
Carley, age 6, leaves a drawing for Wiggles.
Averie, from Springdale, has been coming to the program since it began. The 9-year-old says, “I like to read and visit with the dogs. I come back because it’s fun.” Her favorite reading partners are Dirk and Wiggles.
The children aren’t the only ones who benefit from the reading program. Dog owner Denise Johnson says that she and Wiggles have been part of the program since the beginning. “I don’t have any grandbabies, so this gives me kid time,” she says. “What I enjoy most is seeing the reading improvement in the children who keep coming back,” she adds. Wiggles also regularly visits a local preschool where Johnson reads to the class.
Jasmine, age 6, reads to Dirks in Springdale.
To meet the dogs and see the schedule, go to the Springdale Public Library’s website.
There are many public libraries across Arkansas that offer similar reading programs that involve therapy dogs. As part of the Central Arkansas Library System, you can participate in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program in Little Rock, Maumelle and Jacksonville. Check your local library if you are interested in participating. Who knows, you may just find your next best friend.
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