Inside the Mandel Public Library in downtown West Palm Beach, dog tails take on a whole new meaning.
“As a librarian, you want children to fall in love with reading,” library director Lisa Hathaway said.
Twice a month, elementary school students who are learning to read or are timid about reading aloud can practice on therapy dogs like Reggie from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Unlike classmates, Reggie won’t laugh if kids get stuck on a word, but he will help them sniff it out. He’s patient, not pushy.
Mason, a second-grade student, said the dogs make the perfect practice partner.
“Listens to me and, like, tries to lick my hand,” Mason said of Reggie.
It’s his first time participating in the “Dog Tales” program. His mom said it won’t be his last.
“Oh yeah, we’ll be here every week,” Shanita Williams said.
Hathaway said seeing the kids’ potential unleashed is special.
“A while back we had a little boy in here and he was reading to the dog, and he just looked up at the dog and he said, ‘You’re my best friend,’ and it was the cutest story,” Hathaway said. “Because here’s this kid who was struggling to read and, all of a sudden, he’s reading because he gets a chance to read with his best friend.”
For a reading program that started 15 years ago and has seen 19,000 kids come through, there are no plans to turn the page yet.
The library is always looking for volunteers with dogs who will get them certified to participate in “Dog Tales.” Currently, two dogs participate.