A child reads a story to one of the therapy dogs at the Okemos Library.
OKEMOS - Reading has gone to the dogs - but in a good way.
“I think it gets kids excited to read,” therapy dog owner Carol Heckaman said.
Every month, the Okemos Library hosts a free event where for one hour, children of all ages can come and read to certified therapy dogs from Therapy Dogs International.
“I think the dogs are more excited sometimes than the owners to come and read with the kids,” Heckaman said.
Youth librarian Tom Shilts created the program eight years ago as a way to help children improve and feel more comfortable with their reading skills by providing a judgment-free zone.
“The dog doesn’t judge you,” Shilts said. “If you don’t know how to read, sound out a word, well the dog doesn’t care.”
The program has not only helped children get better at reading.
For the Wu family, it has helped their son become less afraid of the animal.
“We want him to play with the dog each time and love,” Meridian Township resident Xiang Qian Wu said.
The Kids Reading to Dogs event is held on the third monday of each month.
Shilts encourages everyone, Okemos resident or not, to come and participate.
“They can just meet and greet with the dogs if they want to. They can read with the dogs. They can read with their parent and help them with their books to read to the dogs,” Shilts said. “It’s a good angle on reading that there is this other person and dog involved that makes it more fun and takes the pressure off of the kids.”
To find out when the next Kids Reading to Dogs event is or to see other events hosted by the Okemos Library, visit the Capital Areas District Libraries website at www.cadl.org.