This article was previously published on flintside.com. Flintside is an online news magazine about the Flint region.
FLINT, Michigan—A young girl runs towards the Children’s Learning Place inside the Flint Public Library. She holds a book in her hand, excited and eager.
The dogs are here today.
She rushes past the fish tank, puppets, and Legos and heads right to the quiet German shepherd in the corner, resting on his dog bed. The owner is close by, and invites the young girl over.
With a huge grin, she kneels down on the floor next to the dog, gives him a loving pat on the head, opens her book, and begins to read.
To the dog.
This is Tell-A-Tail, an incredibly cute and unique program at Flint Public Library designed to encourage children to read.
“We know children need to practice reading in order to get good at it,” said Kay Schwartz, director of the Flint Public Library. “This is a fun way they can practice without an adult hovering over them.”
Therapy dogs are brought in for the Tell-A-Tail events, which continue throughout the month of July.
Ends up, dogs make the perfect reading companions.
They don’t judge. They don’t interrupt. They listen.
And those qualities make all the difference.
The therapy dogs with their calm and gentle nature, even help the children feel more relaxed as they read, which is especially nice for nervous readers, Schwartz said.
And, while it maybe the cutest reading program you’ll ever see—it also is effective, said Donna Herman, a children’s learning specialist at Flint Public Library.
“There’s no correction. They sit and they read. They’re accepted,” Herman said. “The reality is that research shows the more a child reads, the better they become.”
Sharece Combs has been bringing her child to Tell-A-Tail for the past three years.
“My daughter loves pets,” Combs said one of a handful of parents and children attending a recent Tell-A-Tail. “It gives her a chance to be around pets, because she doesn’t have any at home.”
And, Schwartz isn’t shy about admitting the program is one of many that she hopes help children (and adults) fall in love with reading.
“If kids come to the library mostly to visit the dogs, that’s fine,” said Schwartz. “Our hope is that they leave the library with an armload of books and a plan to come back for the next Tell-A-Tail.”