Madeline Potts of Rossford pets Finnie during the Read to the Dogs: Paws with a Heart program at Rossford Public Library.
Aidan York carefully picked out a book last week to read to Kaycee, Ruby, and other furry friends who periodically visit Rossford Public Library.
They help the 5-year-old Eagle Point Elementary kindergarten student practice reading without judgment. For example, Kaycee - a 5-year-old golden retriever therapy dog owned by Joanne Garner of Toledo - patiently waited on her blanket while Aidan kneeled in front of her to read.
"He did it last year, and he looks so forward to this," said his mother, Pam York of Rossford.
"He's kind of reserved, but when he comes here and he sees the dogs, he goes to each one to read," she added. "It's a great program."
Rossford Public Library has hosted Paws With A Heart therapy dogs for the last few years. Children's librarian Sandra Sheehy learned about the organization from a colleague at Way Public Library in Perrysburg.
"For some children, reading to a dog, a stuffed animal, anything that is not judgmental, is so much easier than reading to an adult, a tutor, or in front of a class," Mrs. Sheehy said.
She added: "It's mostly to help the kids improve their reading or at least improve confidence in their reading. That's probably the biggest thing."
Children from pre-school on up must sign up for sessions in the program, which is held for several weeks two or three times a year at Rossford Public Library. Currently, the therapy dog program is being offered from 6:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Mondays through Oct. 19.
Nancy Hamilton, who organizes dates for Paws With A Heart and owns Ruby, a chocolate Labrador retriever, said the therapy dog group goes to the Sylvania, Sanger, and Holland branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, as well as the Rossford and Perrysburg libraries.
Some children start with only reading five minutes at a time, Ms. Hamilton said. "Now, all of a sudden, they're reading for a long time," she said.
One mother even reported her son overcame his fear of dogs through the program, Mrs. Sheehy said.
Children sign the books of the dogs they read to and receive bookmarks with their pictures. Some parents last week said their children enjoy collecting the bookmarks.
Like Aidan, 9-year-old Savannah Hurst is rather shy, said her mother, Danita Vansant of Rossford.
But the Eagle Point Elementary third-grader has done the program for three years and is especially partial to Finnie, a golden retriever with waves.
Savannah also has encouraged her 5-year-old sister, Jaydah Hurst, to read to the dogs.