At first glance, your Library’s Tale to Tail and Reading Paws programs, in which kids read aloud to trained listening dogs in one-on-one sessions, may seem unnecessary or even strange. But these programs actually address a real issue children face as they learn to read. Reading aloud can be intimidating and even scary for kids of all reading levels. Tale to Tail and Reading Paws allow kids ages 5-10 years old to practice reading aloud in a judgment-free space where they are able to slow down, make mistakes, and start over without pressure.
Caregivers can register their kids for two 15-minute sessions per month. Tale to Tail is on Mondays between 4-6:15 p.m., and Reading Paws is between 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month. During their one-on-one session in the Library’s Storytime Room, kids read aloud the books of their choice to a certified therapy dog. The eight dogs that volunteer for the program are all different breeds and sizes, ranging from the gentle golden doodle Toby (pictured above), to the cute little papillon Arturo, to the friendly border collie Bigsby. The dogs are all loving and quiet, and they provide a calming and nonjudgmental presence for their readers.
Youth Services Manager Betty Cobb says that when Tale to Tail began in 2010, “I thought it was a gimmicky program, but then I started hearing back from the parents. Their feedback assured me that their children’s reading skills had improved and they were gaining confidence in reading orally.” Betty explains that some children are more withdrawn or shy and when they read with a dog they become more outgoing. They feel more comfortable reading after sharing a book with a dog who is nothing but open and positive.
Tasha Ayers says this has been the case for her seven-year-old daughter Gemma, who has participated in Tale to Tail for two years and loves it. Tasha says that while Gemma has always read well, she is shy and often worries what people think about her, so reading aloud can be hard. But reading aloud to a dog has allowed Gemma to put her guard down and read without the stress of competition or testing, or the worry of being judged by others. And, Tasha says, “when you take the ‘need to’ and the fear out of something, you learn more and have more fun.”
To register your child for Tale to Tail or Reading Paws, call (423) 434-4458 or email Betty Cobb. For more information about our many youth programs, visit our calendar, call (423) 434-4458, and follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram.