Library uses dogs as reading aides

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Children are seen here Wednesday reading to therapy dogs Hope and Ruby and their trainers at the Portage Lake District Library as part of the library’s “Read-To-Me” program.

The Portage Lake District Library has launched a “Read-To-Me” program for children and their families to read with dogs at the library.

The program will allow library patrons and children who are learning how to read to meet and read to trained therapy dogs Harley, Ruby and Hope.

PLDL community programs director Chris Alquist said they were influenced by other libraries who have similar programs.

To start the program, they needed trained dogs, so she was happy when the trainers reached out to her and wanted to be involved.

The purpose of the program is to help children can gain confidence and build reading skills by reading at their own pace to the very calm and attentive dogs.

“Because the dogs will just lay there and listen, kids who are struggling to read will become better readers by doing this,” said Alquist.

“It’s another good way to build community,” she said. “This is a really wonderful community, and people are accustomed to looking out for each other, helping each other, working together, planning together, and so I think this is an extension of that.”

The three gentle dogs are trained and registered with Therapy Dogs International and SuperiorLand Pet Partners. They will be available every Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. through May.

Children may bring a book from home or school or choose one from the library that they want to read to the dogs. There will be books to read and coloring pages for kids to use while they wait for their turn to read to a dog.

Golden retriever Harley, who was not in attendance Wednesday but will be in the future, has been a therapy dog for more than seven years and frequently visits elderly people in nursing homes.

Ruby and Hope are Leonberger therapy dogs who are known for helping students de-stress during finals week at Michigan Tech. They also do hospice visits.