Public library uses therapy dogs to help reluctant readers get better

Paws to Read program

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Paws to Read is one of the Indianapolis Public Library’s more popular reading programs. 

It’s all about giving kids the opportunity to read to specially trained therapy dogs in a no judgment zone. 

Paws to Read is part of the nonprofit organization Paws and Think, based in Indianapolis.

Dogs and handlers are specially trained says Kelsey Burton, executive director of Paws and Think. 

The library program does offer children structure, but handlers aren’t considered tutors. 

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Kelsey said Paws to Read is a place kids can open a book without fear because the dog isn’t going to judge them. 

“In the schools, some of the students struggle with their reading. They’re reading below their reading level. By getting them to come in and read to a dog and be excited about that process, we see their reading levels jump significantly throughout the school year with the kids that are in our program,” said Burton. 

Mother of three, Caroline Stevenson, remembers growing up on a farm in the country. The library was all she had. 

Caroline says she’s seen big improvements in her children’s reading ability and credits the library and the Paws to Read program.

Her family has made it a priority every weekend ​​​for more than a year. 

Stevenson now says her children read more challenging books, they speak better, and their confidence has grown. 

“It helped them a lot. They can be shy around me. Or they can act like they’re not as strong, and they want Mom to read to them. And so suddenly they did have to step up and pick up books they were capable of and not just saying, ‘no Mom, you read to me’,” said Stevenson.

The library suggests signing up ahead of time as certain branches do fill up. For a list of branch locations that offer Paws to Read, head here