GREENBURGH, N.Y. As a second grader read out loud in the library, she flipped the book over and showed the pictures to the white, fluffy puppy sitting in front of her.
While animals are not typically allowed in the building, the Greenburgh Public Library is hosting "Reading Has Gone to the Dogs!," a program on Jan. 12 where elementary school students read to Bradley, a specially-trained literacy mentor dog, to boost their reading confidence.
"The kids don't feel like they are being tested here," said Mary Slamin, the head children's librarian. "And they really like the dog. I just want this to be fun. I read some place where it said, 'It's the school's job to teach them how to read and it's the library's job to teach them to want to read.'"
Children develop their reading skills at different paces, said Slamin, and this program offers a relaxed atmosphere where they can enjoy learning. Slamin's main goal is to make the children feel comfortable reading, as schools can sometimes have the opposite effect. Dogs are often more accepting than humans, she said, and the program offers a stress-free environment to practice reading skills.
"I think that schools become so intense and the pressure is so much," said Slamin. "I really just want the kids to enjoy reading a book. School has unfortunately gotten to be just work. I really think that we need to make it fun. They're under a lot of pressure. I want them to enjoy themselves, and to think of the library as a fun and comfortable place to go where they can find information."
During the hour-long program, a few children read to the dog for 10 to 20 minutes before another group does the same.
"The smaller dogs really work well because kids aren't afraid," said Slamin. "In all the times I've used dogs in the programs, I've never had a problem. The kids are wonderful with him."
The program runs from 4 to 5 p.m. and is targeted toward first through fifth graders. It is free and open to Greenburgh Library cardholders. It will repeat on Feb. 9, March 8 and April 5.
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