A new Wellington City Libraries initiative gives children the chance to have a 15 minute one-on-one relaxing reading session with a trained therapy dog from Canine Friends Pet Therapy. The dog’s handlers are present at all times.
They get the choice of reading to a range of pups including Archie, a six-year-old schnoodle that loves people, or Zibu, a King Charles Cavalier, Miniature poodle, and Bichon Frisé mix who specialises in assisting students and those who may have a fear of canines.
Tamariki can bring in their favourite book or pick one with help from a librarian before they curl up with a kurī to practice their reading, says Libraries Children’s and Youth Services Coordinator Stephen Clothier.
“The aim is to help tamariki improve their literacy, self-confidence, and self-esteem in a relaxed and non-judgemental environment – after all, a dog won’t laugh at you or judge you if you don’t know how to pronounce a certain word, or if you trip up over your sentences.”
There is a lot of research into the benefits of reading to and with companion animals, Stephen says.
“It brings a lot of comfort for tamariki. It also helps to raise awareness and community understanding of the important work done by therapy dogs and other animals – it’s a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the impacts that these kinds of collaborations can have. Plus, it’s just nice for tamariki to be able to hang out with a cute, well-trained doggo at the library.”