MHLS Home Dog Therapy Program

Dogs and children know who likes them. — Proverb

Program Description | Library Tasks | Therapy Group Tasks | Other Aspects | Positive Impact | Area therapy organizations

Program Description
Several MHLS libraries offer very successful programs for children in which local therapy dogs are brought to the library and children read to them, one on one. For children who struggle to master reading, this program is a wonderful opportunity to read in a non-judgmental, calm setting. Both dogs and children love the interaction and the children get only positive feedback with no judgment as to how well they are reading so it is a win/win situation for all. In addition, if a child is stressed as they struggle to read, the mere presence of a dog reduces their stress level so they have a better chance to succeed and learn to enjoy reading. In one case, the library reported a child who was fearful of dogs actually overcame that fear after a few positive sessions reading to the therapy dog.

Library tasks
* Work with local schools and/or Literacy Volunteers of America agencies to identify children who would benefit OR offer the opportunity as a reward to children who visit the library frequently OR a combination of both groups
* Provide space and publicity for the program--room where two OR three teams might work at the same time, if available.
* Plan to offer FIVE OR SIX (DEPENDING ON AVAILABILITY) sessions over a semester. Each session lasts one hour max, with 15-minute segments for each child.
* Plan activities for children waiting their turn.
* Pay therapy organization, to be negotiated on an individual basis.

Therapy group tasks
* Provide at least one team consisting of a dog AND handler, possibly a team leader (who oversees program), and possibly a teen escort (for additional assistance as needed by the shape of the program)
* Visit library before program to assess space and any other issues
* Designate teams to visit libraries, with one backup team for each occasion

Other aspects to consider:
* Limit registration to children identified with reading issues, open it up to all children or some combination of these two options
* If many kids sign up, each child gets only one opportunity to read.
* If low registration, kids can have repeat sessions.
* If children attend multiple sessions, library might track their progress and work with school to assess impact of program.

Positive impact of program:
*Offering valuable service to local children (& their parents)
*Networking with your local school
*Creating great PR situation to call the local newspaper and get them to do a story (kids and dogs are always a great photo op)
*Bringing families into your library who might not otherwise be patrons

Area therapy organizations