Feb 11, 2011 1:17 AM by Dr. Anya Winslow

Dogs in the library

The Pikes Peak Library District opens its doors to the dogs, and children absolutely love it. Inside the library, a special program called Paws to Read encourages kids to speak aloud, and for one girl, this was her first time.

You would not know by the look of her smile and big basket of books, but 6-year-old Lily Bigelow shies away from reading.

"At night, when we try to read to her, she gets tired and fatigued sounding out the words," says Lily's mom Marlene Bigelow.

A few years back, Marlene Bigelow tried this program with her older daughter because "she had been resistant to reading to us at home." Reading to the dogs, however, was much easier.

"If she didn't pronounce the word correctly, she thought we were being critical of her, and she didn't feel that with the dogs," adds Mrs. Bigelow. In fact, the program gave her older daughter a new found confidence in reading.

Bigelow's older daughter is now in 5th grade, and she says, "I think [this program] gave her the confidence that she could read, and she was able to relax and work on sounding out the words. Now, she's an advanced reader."

Her younger daughter, Lily, struggles with reading, too. So, she thought she would let her try reading to the dogs.

"I came last week to check out books, and we've been practicing for a week at home," Bigelow says. The excitement of being able to read to the dogs has dramatically changed Lily's attitude towards reading. "My husband even commented, ‘I've never seen her read this much at home,'" she laughs.

Founder of the program in Colorado Springs, Jean Bishop, believes that the dogs allow kids to be relaxed.

"I notice kids will be reading and petting the dog at the same time," she says. "It calms them down. No one is stopping them and saying, ‘No, no. What's that word again?' It's that [the dogs] just let them read and let them have fun doing it."

Confidence in reading to the dogs extends into the classroom. "I've had a lot of parents say that their child never raised their hand to read in class, and since they've been coming and reading to the dogs, they raise their hand and want to read more aloud," says Bishop, "They're much more confident."

Paws to Read, in its seventh year, is thriving. Approximately thirty dogs participate in the program across twelve of the thirteen libraries.

Participating dogs go through a rigorous interview process conducted by Bishop, and the owners have to be "invested in children's reading, literacy, and their dog."

All the dogs in the program have received some sort of obedience and behavioral training. If you would like to have your pet interviewed, Bishop says, "Contact me."

One surprise candidate started in the Paws to Read program this month - a hairless cat named Piglet.

As for Lily, perhaps her love for the animals will develop into a penchant for reading.

To find out if your dog qualifies for the program, Jean Bishop can be reached at (719) 531-6333, x2406 or by email at

Click here to find out when and where the next Paws to Read program occurs.



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