Park City Library Library takes a Paws to Read
November 18, 2016
The Park City Library invites kids between the ages of 5 and 12 to Paws to Read.
The new program is a way for kids to practice reading skills in a nonjudgemental environment by reading aloud to a specially trained dog provided by Therapy Animals Utah, said Youth Services Librarian Katrina Kmak.
"The more they do it, the better they get at reading," Kmak said during an interview with The Park Record. "The animals don’t judge when a child stumbles over a word. They are always happy to love, and we want everyone to feel good about reading."
Paws to Read is held Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. and the dog is named Monkey.
"Monkey is a pit-bull mix, who is handled by Melodie Greene," Kmak said. "Monkey is so cute and the sweetest dog ever."
Each child, between the ages of 5 and 12, gets a 15-minute slot to read on a first-come-first served basis.
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"They’ll have five minutes to pet and get to know Monkey and then 10 minutes to read," the librarian said. "I like that they will be able to read out loud without having teachers or peers stopping them to tell them they mispronounced a word or they took too long to read a sentence. The dog just sits and listens."
The concept for Paws to Read has grown in popularity over the past year.
"It has picked up all over the nation and even in Summit County," Kmak said. "I believe the Summit County Library does this with another therapy animal group."
Therapy Animals Utah, a nonprofit that utilizes dogs and cats in animal-assisted activities and therapy, and the Park City Library have tried to find a way to work together since the library's renovation last year.
"They came up and took a look at the space and felt it would be a great opportunity to do this," Kmak said. "I was like 'Yes, please.'"
Therapy Animals of Utah liked the library's story time room.
"It’s a closed and controlled space for the dog, readers and trainers," Kmak said.
Therapy Animals of Utah, which was founded in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the Utah branch of the Delta Society, a national organization that specialized in animal-assisted therapy, said founding member and Executive Director Deborah Carr.
"Our mission is to bring the gifts of our animals — comfort, love, hope and healing — of the human animal bond though training, service, education and research," Carr said. "We have specific programs for those four categories."
The Paws to Read program falls into the service category, which includes animal assisted education.
"That's when we work on kids' literacy and other educational goals," Carr said. "We have other service programs that utilize our service dogs to other places in Park City — Parley's Park Elementary School and the Park City Hospital."
Animals help students and young patients relax.
"When we interact with animals, the human body secretes oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes every cell in our body and helps us feel we can do difficult tasks," Carr said. "When that happens, you feel more social and bond with people better."
Carr wants the public to know the benefits of animals.
"We envision a world where animals are highly valued as teachers, healers and essential contributors to human health and wellbeing," she said. "It's important for us to help people value the benefits of animals as much as we do."
Kmak said Paws to Read is another way the Park City Library promotes literacy and serves the community.
"We want to offer opportunities to children so they can learn and grow into the best people they can be," she said. "We want to have a successful program for our young readers who don’t have much confidence with their reading. We're here for them just as we are here for avid readers."
Paws to Read is held from 4-5 p.m. on Tuesdays at The Park City Library, 1255 Park Avenue. For more information, visit http://www.parkcitylibrary.org.
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