What a fun afternoon, as Aubrey and I joined a group of excited children and their parents and grandparents at the Joplin Public Library. Aubrey was excited as well, because today, during a special program in the Children’s Department at the library, kids had the opportunity to read to dogs. For Dog Day Afternoon, the library brought in real dogs for the children to read books to.
What a great way to encourage reading. During our last visit to the library, Aubrey picked up information about this event. She loves animals, and the idea of reading to dogs appealed to her for a couple of reasons: not only did she get to be with one of her favorite animals, she also had the freedom to read to a living, breathing, adoring listener who would not criticize her reading abilities or correct her. That’s the beautiful intention behind the program….that kids can enjoy reading, even if they are just looking at the pictures in a book and making up a story, all without any criticism. This is about reading for the simple joy of it, not to improve ability. The wise creators of today’s fun event are leaving learning in the classrooms.
Owners graciously brought in their dogs, who all work as therapy dogs in various organizations. These gentle animals are used to people and each dog’s owner stayed with the kids to monitor the interaction. Four dogs sat in different locations within the reading room, in the Children’s Department, and the boys and girls selected books to read and added their names to the list. As we waited for Aubrey’s name to be called, she selected several books, mostly about dogs, or featuring that lovable canine, Scooby Doo. We discovered a coloring table set up in a quiet corner and we both colored preprinted pages.
When it was Aubrey’s turn she was paired up with Ricky, a gray Airedale. She carried in the book, “If I Ran the Dog Show” and after petting Ricky and getting acquainted for a few moments, she opened her book to read. I was so proud of her. Parents and grandparents were only allowed to watch from the doorway, to avoid the temptation of “helping” too much as the kids read. We could slip into the reading room to take pictures as long as we stayed off to the side and didn’t distract the kids.
After five minutes of reading to the first dog, the kids were allowed to pick another to read to. Aubrey selected a pretty brown and white dog, whose name I didn’t catch. Over any feelings of shyness by now, she readily opened her book back up and read to the second dog. I smiled, and felt teary-eyed, watching her. Aubrey is such an adventurous child. Even though she was doing a first today, she stepped right up and met the challenge. As a first grader, she still has lots to learn about reading, but that didn’t stop her from participating whole-heartedly and doing her best.
And her best was more than good enough. The dogs certainly enjoyed listening to her, especially Ricky. My favorite pictures from the afternoon are these last two. In the pic above, Ricky appears to be reading over Aubrey’s shoulder, fascinated by the unfolding story. And when Aubrey sat back, laughing, Ricky seems to be studying the page himself, perhaps in disbelief at an unexpected plot twist. This was such a good experience for my little granddaughter. I appreciate the Children’s Department in the Joplin Library for offering such excellent programs, and for allowing kids to be kids and have fun as they experience books and reading in a casual atmosphere. The next Dog Day Afternoon is October 20, 2015. Aubrey and I already have plans to be there.