Successful Programs

Have other public libraries had positive experiences with canine programming?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  Keep reading for several examples of how libraries across the country, in communities large and small, have implemented similar programs.   

Read-to-Me Story Dogs: Sioux City Public Library

In Iowa, the Sioux City Public Library has developed a solid partnership with a local K-9 program, which trains and certifies dogs for Animal Assisted Therapy.  With a grand total of thirty dogs (and handlers) currently in the program, outreach is provided to a local hospital, an Alzheimer’s unit, a physical therapy center, area schools, and the Sioux City Public Library.  Here, the dogs are regular visitors as “Read-to-Me Story Dogs,” where they have proven to be patient listeners as children practice reading stories aloud.  According to an article published in the local newspaper, appointments are not necessary for children to participate in the program, and Jeanette Bobeen, Youth Services Manager, kindly revealed further details through e-mail correspondence.  The program has been in place for six years, and was popular from the start – so popular, in fact, that there is sometimes not enough space for the children and dogs to spread out during their read aloud times, and the room can quickly become “a cacophony of sound.”  Bobeen elaborated further, stating that occasionally, one lucky dog might have three children reading aloud to him at one time!  With average attendance of six to twelve children (and one to two dogs) during the school year and fifteen to forty children (and up to five dogs) during the summer, the program is going strong.  Bobeen noted that one of the most popular events comes at Halloween, when the dogs appear in costume.  Ultimately, it seems undeniable that the “Read-to-Me Story Dogs” have been a great success in this Midwestern city of 85,000, and the Sioux City Public Library and K-9 should be commended for their collaboration in this effort to improve childhood literacy.

Sources for More Information
  • Montag, Molly. “They're All Ears: Program Helps Kids Gain Confidence by Reading to Dogs.” Sioux City Journal. 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 31 Oct. 2010. <>.
This newspaper article discusses the success of the "Read-to-Me Story Dogs" in Sioux City, Iowa.
  • “The S.T.A.R.S. K-9 Program.” S.T.A.R.S., Inc. Web. 31 Oct. 2010. <>.
The S.T.A.R.S. K-9 Program coordinated with the Sioux City Public Library to provide volunteer therapy dogs and handlers.

Thursdays with MacGyver: LaGrange Public Library

In Poughkeepsie, New York, canine programming took off in 2008 thanks to a local volunteer, Peg Basso, and her dog, MacGyver, who is registered through Therapy Dogs International.  When Basso contacted Alison Francis, the LaGrange Public Library Youth Services Librarian, about volunteer opportunities, Francis knew exactly how Basso and MacGyver could help out.  She had long been interested in the concept of bibliotherapy, and, particularly, the idea that children could benefit from reading aloud to dogs.  Thus, “Thursdays with MacGyver” was born.  This program allows MacGyver to pay a visit to the Youth Services Department once a week; fifteen-minute time slots are assigned to young readers over a two-hour period.  Children participating in the program must preregister, either via phone or in person, and can preregister for several weeks at a time if they prefer.  Francis finds that preregistration helps the program to run smoothly, as only one child reads to the dog at a time.  The handler remains with the dog, and the child’s parent or caregiver is required to stay in the room during the session, as well.  It should be noted that there is no cost for maintaining this program, since Basso and MacGyver are volunteers.  The program is held during regular library hours, and children choose their own books, so there is no additional cost for materials.  With a population of 30,000, Poughkeepsie is small enough that, so far, the presence of just one dog at the library has proved sufficient, and the feedback from children and their parents has been very positive.  It is evident through the popularity of this program that even one volunteer can genuinely impact the confidence and literary abilities of the young people of his or her community.

Sources for More Information
  • Francis, Alison. "Thursdays with MacGyver." Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children 7.2 (2009): 50-52. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Nov. 2010.
This journal article explores the LaGrange Public Library's experience with canine programming.

Paws for Reading: Alderman Elementary School

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a partnership between the Alderman Elementary School and Carolina Canines for Service has benefited struggling readers.  After Robin Briggs Newlin, a School Library Media Coordinator, initiated contact with this nonprofit organization, a program was developed involving weekly visits to the school from four dogs and their handlers.  Initially, fifteen second-grade students with low reading levels were selected to participate in “Paws for Reading;” in order to participate, all were required to turn in a signed release form and their medical history.  Throughout the first year of the program, the students progressed through increasingly challenging dog-related titles, and, once a month, would receive a new book stamped with their dog’s paw print.  Briggs Newlin was pleased to see that the students’ fluency, as well as their enthusiasm for reading, soared throughout the progression of the program.  These developments were recorded by the dog handlers, whom the school reading specialist trained in evaluation techniques, as well as by the students’ scores in Accelerated Reader.  As the program became more popular, Alderman Elementary School decided to allow all students from second through fifth grades – including proficient readers – the opportunity to read to a dog.  Each week, a teacher selects a new student from his or her class to be offered the chance to participate in “Paws for Reading.”  The program has now expanded to other area elementary schools, and has even coordinated with the local public library for the development of a summer program.  Clearly, the positive effects of "Paws for Reading” have been far-reaching, and thus demonstrate the potential of such programs.

Sources for More Information
  • Briggs, Robin. “Paws for Reading.” School Library Journal 49.6 (2003): 43. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 7 Nov. 2010.
The positive results of "Paws for Reading" at the Alderman Elementary School are detailed in this journal article.
  • “Paws for Reading.” Carolina Canines for Service. 13 July 2009. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <>.
Carolina Canines for Service offers more information about their involvement with literacy programs in their community.