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From our latest issue: Children Are Reading to Therapy Dogs via Zoom

By Nicole Jones

Ever since the lockdown began due to COVID-19, people have devised new ways of keeping themselves busy. This is especially true for some children who are now reading to therapy dogs via Zoom.

In an effort to help kids who are in the beginning phase of reading and boost their confidence, a nonprofit group based in Washington, called People Animals Love (PAL), has decided to create virtual sessions.

PAL is a nonprofit group that manages close to 500 individually owned dogs and cats that provide comfort to people. Typically, their reading program takes place in libraries around the Washington area where children get to read aloud to pets as well as pet them. However, in light of the current global situation, the program has moved online to keep the reading service going.

The executive director of PAL, James Haworth, stated that there were many reasons why the program has been a success, but part of it, is that the children get excited when they see a dog on their screen. Another reason is that children who struggle to read often feel shy or scared when called on to read aloud in a classroom setting, but this fear isn’t manifested when they are in the presence of a dog.

Sessions between the child and dog are usually 12 minutes long, and after the first session, the child can move on to another session with another dog.

Children can pick a favourite book and read it to the dogs while turning around the books to show the dogs the page illustrations. At the end of the session, the handlers take their dogs’ paws and give a farewell wave.

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