Program at Pinelands Library helps bring the smallest and furriest members of the community together

Periodically, the Pinelands Branch Library welcomes therapy animals to provide kids a chance to read a book in a judgment-free area.

The Paws to Read program gives kids of all ages a chance to work on their reading skills and to become comfortable with animals of all varieties – including chickens.

We do have a registered therapy chicken that comes from time to time,” librarian Rick Yankosky said. “She wears a diaper to prevent messes, and there’s another chicken as well who plays the piano.”

I don’t know if I noticed that much of a difference, but I’ve been trying to work with Timothy on reading clearly and slowly out loud, and I thought this was a good opportunity to practice,” said Anna Thornton, who stopped in the library for a session.

She added the program piqued her interest as two of her kids were excited about the dogs, with one remaining a bit reluctant, and knew it’d be a great way for her kids to feel comfortable again with an animal.

Yankosky said the library has therapy dogs of all kinds of breeds, including a Rhodesian Ridgeback, throughout the year to help familiarize kids with an animal.

With the bigger dogs, Yankosky said many times he and the handlers will have children who are comfortable enough approach the dog to get used to them at first before picking a book up.

He added dogs won’t tell a kid that they’re pronouncing a word weirdly or are reading to slowly.

There are some repeat people, and it definitely makes them more comfortable,” Yankosky said. “Animals make people feel comfortable. Research has shown that reading to dogs improves reading skills.

With the repeat reader, he added they’ve improved their literacy skills when they return and have become more in love with reading in general.

We read a lot at home and I read every day to them,” said Thornton. “I think being read to and reading a variety of books has gotten them excited about reading.”

The program, Yankosky added, is a personal favorite of his because he gets to witness participants read or see outside people perform.

Paws to Read also has registered therapy dogs from the Pinelands come in to be read to so the library isn’t always reaching out to a company or rescue group hours away.

To learn more about the Paws to Read program, visit BCLS.Lib.NJ.us/Pinelands. Yankosky said the chickens are expected to return in November.

We do one-on-ones twice a month, and we do a pack with three or four dogs periodically,” Yankosky said. “That’s interesting because the kids get to familiarize themselves with the dogs and they get to read. The little sessions are more about the reading because it’s 15 minutes each.”