Can You Read to a Dog?

Cathy Salustri

Can You Read to a Dog?

Shyne Eugene Shorter, 9, came to the Gulfport Library with his family “to read.” The Bear Creek Elementary student must read 30 books every month, and last Thursday he read at least one of them to Maya, a “reading dog.”

Nine-year-old Shyne Shorter can, and so can his sister Aaliyah. They both came to the Gulfport Public Library to read to Maya, a golden retriever trained to listen.

Therapy Dogs International (TDI) trains dogs and their handlers to work in a variety of therapeutic situations, including work as “Tail Waggin’ Tutors.”

“The main objective of this program,” TDI’s web site explains, “is to provide a relaxed and ‘dog-friendly’ atmosphere, which allows students to practice the skill of reading.”

The site goes on to explain that children who may be self-conscious when reading aloud in class in front of their friends will not have those same issues when reading to a dog.

“By sitting down next to a dog and reading to the dog, all threats of being judged are put aside,” the site explains.

“The child relaxes, pats the attentive dog, and focuses on the reading. Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant.”

Shyne and his eight year old sister, Aaliyah, told the Gabber that they like reading.

Maya looks forward to hearing new readers the second Thursday of every month. Gulfport does not charge for this service, but part-time youth librarian Kaley Classen suggests calling the library to let them know you’re coming. You can reach the Gulfport Public Library at 893-1074.

Library Director David Mather came to Gulfport in July of last year; Ms. Classen came later in the year. Together, they say they want to build the youth program. Mr. Mather calls Maya’s appearance as a reading dog “a blessing” in their efforts to build the youth program.

“Maya’s mom came to us with the idea, but it was a blessing because we were looking for something to kickstart it,” he says. 

Also on tap for kids at the library:

 • Story time Thursdays mornings at 10:30.
 • Family movie time, once a month on a Saturday.
 • Teen activities every Wednesday afternoon at 3.
 • Craft time once a month

Click here to browse the library’s new web site and calendar of events.