Story PALs is a library program that aims to help children improve their reading skills. In 6-week sessions, struggling readers ages 6-12 are paired off with a trained dog from The Pet Access League Society (PALS), under the supervision of the dog’s handler, for one-on-one reading sessions. PALS has highly socialized and trained dogs used in other programs such as visiting kids at hospitals and visiting nursing homes.
Children who struggle with reading often have a difficult time reading aloud in front of fellow children and adults. During their interaction with the dogs, the children forget these barriers. The dogs provide a calm and accepting environment for them. As a result, the children can read aloud without the fear of judgment or disruptions. This type of program has several positive effects which include providing an opportunity for children to increase their reading level while also improving their self-confidence. Says one parent:
“After the third week, I was amazed by how much my son's reading had improved! He would not read out loud at home or in class before he came but is doing so now.”
A staff member also noticed changes in another reader: “One boy arrived reluctantly on the first day with his mother who was insisting that he at least try it. On his second visit he came running in through the doors to tell me he was here and was very excited to read to the same dog he had the previous week. He had made a quick bond with a large black lab and the volunteer. This boy was a struggling reader in Grade 5 and this program made an obvious difference to his attitude and reading.”
This program provides a relaxed atmosphere for children who would otherwise feel nervous and apprehensive about reading aloud and as a result, it gives them an opportunity to fall in love with reading. It is a remarkable experience for all involved — the parents, volunteers, dogs, and especially, the children.