'Paws for Reading' encourages children to read aloud

'Paws for Reading' encourages children to read aloud
Guinness looks on as a child reads a Dr. Suess book at the Hattiesburg Library. Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Does your child struggle with reading?  Does he or she get nervous to read aloud?  A therapy program may with a four-legged friend may be able to help.

Alison Patrolia is a certified veterinarian technician and heard about the 'Paws for Reading' program in North Mississippi.  That's when she decided to get her therapy dog handler's license and train her dog, Guinness, to help.

"When it comes to reading for children, he's just very laid back and open and he just loves the children and it helps them relax, to where they can be comfortable and feel themselves, there is no judgment for them," said Patrolia.

'Paws for Reading' is a program that allows children to read aloud to a therapy dog, cat or even bunny,  in order to improve reading and communication skills. Children read individually to trained therapy pets and their handlers, or just listen.

"They can say, they can mess up if they need to, sometimes they don't necessary need to read the words on the page and I think that is very therapeutic for them," said Patrolia.

When it comes to literacy skills, pet therapy can help a child focus better and increase self-confidence while reducing self-consciousness.

"The dog will provide a comfortable partner to read to and the dog won't correct, won't judge, and it all makes it a very comfortable experience," said Deborah White, the Youth Services Librarian at the Hattiesburg Library.  She said she would love to host more events at the library with Alison and Guinness in the future.

Guinness will get his therapy dog certification later this month.  Patrolia said she hopes to host 'Paws for Reading' events in Pine Belt school district, healthcare facilities and more.