The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library hosted its monthly Happy Tails/READing Paws event at its Buckhead location on January 9, 2016. Happy Tails is a non-profit organization that provides animal therapy to people with, “physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs at healthcare facilities, social agencies and special needs programs throughout the metro Atlanta community.” Volunteers offer the company of their beloved pets to promote healing. Happy Tails has partnered with READing Paws, a non-profit organization whose mission is, “to improve the literacy skills of children.” READing Paws is an affiliate of R.E.A.D (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), an organization that helps children Improve communication and reading skills through the use of therapy dogs.
The Happy Tails/READing Paws event offers 15 minute appointment windows for children to read to a therapy animal. Children at the Buckhead location have the opportunity to read to Sedona, a 14-year-old Golden Retriever. She is well-trained, like all R.E.A.D animals. She has been a therapy dog for 8 years. Sedona listens intently to her readers while her owner, Cathy Maher, engages the children with questions on difficult words and plot explanations. This type of interaction allows the children to relax and feel safe when reading, free from pressure or anxiety.
Therapy animals have proven to be a great way to encourage reading. Their presence helps to reduce stress and creates a safe environment that allows readers to build self-confidence. The more children are exposed to therapy with animals the more exciting reading becomes.