Library offers ‘pawsitive’ reading experiences

Siblings Amélie and Joseph enjoy time reading to Toby at the Medfield Library.

By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

The Medfield Public Library’s Children’s Department hosted a very special guest on January 13. He waltzed up the stairs to the Children’s Library, his golden brown locks bouncing with every step. He was a superstar at the library, with every visitor’s head turning to look at him and many coming up to greet him.

The guest, Toby, a miniature goldendoodle therapy dog, was certainly given a warm welcome to the library’s “Read to a Dog” program.

The idea to have children read to a dog has been has been well received by libraries across the nation, and the Medfield Library refused to pass up an opportunity to combine literacy development and canine companionship.

“The whole concept of ‘Read to a Dog’ is that, ideally, they go in by themselves instead of with a parent, and the dog is not going to correct them or anything,” said Head of Children’s Services Bernadette Foley. “And if they can’t read, they can just look at the book and make up a story. It’s a great literacy tool for building confidence.”

Toby’s owner, Allyson Reine, sat in on the sessions, but only to make sure Toby was being a polite listener. Without any parents or teachers in the room while the children read, Toby acted as a non-judgmental audience. Of course, the young readers also appreciated Toby’s cuteness and friendliness, too.

Children’s Services Assistant Veronique Chechile’s children are huge fans of the program, having signed up for the first two slots in the afternoon. Although each child is supposed to read for 15 minutes, nine-year-old Joseph and his five-year-old sister, Amélie, combine their sessions to read to Toby for half an hour.

Joseph read a Star Wars book aloud, informing the dog all about the Jawas that populate Tatooine. Every once in a while, Joseph would look up from his book, give Toby a big smile, and spend a minute petting him before returning to reading.

While her brother read, Amélie listened quietly, patting Toby on the head as he rested on the carpet. After fifteen minutes, Joseph offered Amélie a turn to read. She had brought a book about figure skating to entertain Toby, but candidly admitted that she doesn’t yet know how to read.

So, she chose a picture book that she thought Toby might enjoy and followed along as Joseph read it aloud, turning the page as he finished reading each one.

With several other children excitedly awaiting their time with Toby, it was clear that visitors were thankful to have the petite canine’s companionship at the library.

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