Dog Day Afternoons lets kids read to dogs at the library

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Whatcom County youngsters have something to look forward to as the Whatcom County Library System brings back a popular program that puts children and dogs into conversation.

Dog Day Afternoons provides a time for children to practice their reading skills in front of an accepting audience – a canine companion.

Blaine Public Library will host two Wednesday sessions on December 4 and 11 from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. Participants will choose a half-hour period and read once a week for up to two weeks.

Visiting dogs are owned by volunteers at the Whatcom Humane Society (WHS) and have completed basic obedience training or participated in education programs at the humane society. The dogs have been assessed to ensure they will be safe around kids, said Zakia Kaminski, whose role is outreach and humane education at WHS. Volunteers from the humane society stay with their dogs for the entire session.

The program is especially beneficial for kids who have difficulties reading and, as a result, feel insecure reading aloud in front of classmates or parents. With one hand in the floof of a canine and the other holding up a good book, children can experience a friendly, comfortable atmosphere fit for learning and self-discovery.

“Reading aloud is essential in the development of a child’s literacy skills,” said Whitney Motley, children’s librarian at Blaine Public Library. “Reading aloud to dogs, who love to listen and won’t judge us when we stumble over our words, can really help build a child’s confidence and enhance their love of reading.”

In one case last April, Motley said a young boy chose reading to the dog over ice cream.

“His friend said, ‘We’re going to go get ice cream, do you want to come with us?’ and he said ‘No. I’m reading to the dog,’” Motley shared.

Blankets over tables separating the two spaces and bean bag chairs make kids feel comfortable and safe. Children, dogs and volunteers have their own list of rules, which include: “try not to bark while my student teacher is reading” and “have a ‘pawsitively’ great time.”

Space is limited and registration is required. To register, you can call 360/305-3637. Children must be able to read with minimal help.

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