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Reading with Confidence: Snuffie the Dog

Pioneer Library System

Innovation Leader: Kathie Thomas, Branch Manager, Newcastle Public Library - Pioneer Library System, kathie@pls.lib.ok.us

Problem Statement

Many children are very self conscious about reading aloud; some have low self esteem or are afraid of being criticized in front of their peers. This program helps children become confident in reading, increases their skills, and lets them read in a friendly, relaxed, non-threatening environment. It helps them associate reading with a pleasant experience.

Innovation

Several years ago I went to a program at PLA on children reading to dogs. I thought this sounded like a great deal of fun and was a very innovative program. We presented this as a special summer program, but since these programs are done on a volunteer basis, it’s sometimes hard to find a handler who has a lot of time to do this each week.

Last August, I had a lady call asking if we would like to have a dog come to the library as a tutor. I was thrilled. Terry Lovell brought in “Snuffie,” a mixed Irish Setter Golden Retriever, a rescue who had been in very bad health until Terry took him in, loved him, and had him certified by Therapy Dogs International, Inc.

We’ve been presenting this program since August once a week for two hours from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., which works well since the elementary school is just across the street. The ages we encourage are 4 to 10 year olds, and they choose a 15 minute time slot. The children choose their own book, and many of them choose one with an animal in it or one they think “Snuffie” would enjoy.

We have about 7 regulars who read to “Snuffie” each week. The dog handler is always present when they read in a quiet corner of the library. Snuffie has his blanket, and the child has a bean bag. If a child just wants to visit and get acquainted, they may just sit and talk or brush him.

Progress

We sent news releases to the local paper, flyers to the school and advertized in the library and on the web. We setup a schedule and sometimes call children to remind them of their appointment. This program was seen on the web and recognized by Simon and Schuster as an innovative program. They donated two books about dogs to the library to be used for this program.