DRYDEN — Reading is 5-year-old Noel Gibb’s favorite activity, but playing with dogs is a close second. When the two were brought together Saturday at Dryden’s Southworth Library, she was ecstatic.
“They like to give lots of kisses and I like to play with them,” she said.
Gibbs was one of 12 children participating in the library’s Paws to Read event.
Hosted one Saturday a month by the library, children get a chance to improve their reading skills by reading to dogs from the Cornell Companions program, said Library Director Diane Pamel.
“Dogs are just the best listeners,” she said. “When a child can cuddle up with a dog, it just makes reading more relaxing.”
Pamel also said the program is a good way to encourage children to read. Any child who reads five books during the event receives a free book from the library, she said.
“The more fun reading can be, the more it’s going to be habit or enjoyable,” she said.
The Cornell Companions program is a pet visitation and animal-assisted therapy program sponsored by the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The program teaches volunteers about the benefits of the human-animal bond.
The American Veterinary Medical Association defines the human-animal bond as “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both,” according to the Cornell Companions website.
Particularly for children, said Bree Kennedy, a fourth-year veterinary student.
“I think it’s less pressure for them to read to the dogs than it is to people,” Kennedy said. “They feel they can make mistakes when reading to the dogs.”
They are also good audience members, said 8-year-old Jessica Lawrence from Dryden.
“Most of the time, they listen,” she said.
Lawrence, who read a book about puppies to 6-year-old Nelson, a golden retriever, enjoyed having the company of the dogs to read to as her three dogs at home have too much energy.
“At my house, the dogs wouldn’t stay, but here, they just stay,” she said.