OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- On a recent Saturday morning, kids at the Johnson County Library were lined up to meet a 2-year-old poodle named Otto.
Otto might have been fun to pet, but that’s not why the kids were lined up.
A new program at the Johnson County Library takes the human and dog partnership to a new level: dogs helping kids to learn how to read.
"Dogs are so fun for a lot of kids to be around," said Diana Spencer, Youth Information Specialist at the Johnson County Library. "Kids just relate to them. They are drawn to them."
That comfort level is why the library is enlisting dogs to give children who struggle to read aloud a captive audience.
Pets for Life puts on the program, which the Johnson County Library appropriately named "Read to a Dog."
"It's supposed to promote kids being comfortable with reading," said Spencer. "Dogs are very calming to a lot of people and it just takes away that scary feeling when you are reading aloud to people or are afraid of making a mistake."
Each child at the Central Resource Library got to pick out the book they'd like to read to Otto and his owner Fran, who is a retired grade school teacher.
"He was very cute," Grant Tysseling, an 8-year-old reader, said of Otto. "Very sleepy. He was learning his vocabulary."
Grant’s mom Amy Tysseling said the program was new to her, but knew her son liked to be around dogs.
"My son loves dogs, and my husband and I don't want a dog of our own so I try to find things he can do to interact with them," said Tysseling.
Otto watched patiently as child after child sounded out words and made new discoveries.
"The dogs don't judge you and they're just so good to be around," said Spencer. "It just promotes a healthy environment for kids to read."
Library branches across the county are holding Read to a Dog days through mid-April:
- March 14th: 4-5 pm @ Leawood Pioneer Library
- March 24th: 10:30 am - noon @ Antioch Library
- March 28th: 4-5 pm @ Leawood Pioneer Library
- April 11th: 4-5 pm @ Leawood Pioneer Library
- April 14th: 10:30 - 11:30 am @ Central Resource Library