Pets as Listeners

Appeared In the News-Leader 10-13-2010

By Katy Pattison

Renee Lynn and her dog Missy arrive at the Christian County Library promptly at 4:00 the second and fourth Monday afternoon of each month. They come not to browse for books, but to host the library’s Pets as Listeners program. Pets as Listeners, or PALS, is a program for children who are learning to read or struggling with reading. Children participating in the program read to Missy. “They like to pet Missy while they read and show her the pictures in their book,” explains Renee. Renee and Missy began in the PALS program at the Republic Library. Last year, Renee decided to implement the program at the Christian County Library closer to her home in Ozark.

Missy isn’t just any dog. She’s part of the Pet Therapy of the Ozarks program. Dogs who work with the organization receive special training to make sure they’re comfortable being around adults and children in many situations. They practice being in a hospital setting, greeting other dogs, and getting past distractions, among other skills.

Any child can attend PALS and practice reading to Missy. Similar programs have been popping up in schools and libraries around the U.S. for years. Children who participate in PALS at the Christian County Library feel more comfortable and less judged reading to a trained therapy dog like Missy. And now, a 2010 study at University of California –Davis indicates that children may actually increase their reading fluency 10-30% by participating in a program like Pets as Listeners for 15-20 minutes each week. That’s a benefit that parents and teachers appreciate too.

To register for Pets as Listeners, call the Christian County Library at (417)581-2432.

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