For years, children who have been intimidated to read in front of others have at times turned to therapy dogs to act as their audience and help build up their confidence. But with the coronavirus making it impossible for these real-life reading sessions to occur, one organization has turned to Zoom.
People.Animals.Love, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that matches therapy dogs with community members, including children, is using the video-conferencing platform to help kids hone their reading skills during stay-at-home orders.
PAL hosts 30-minute sessions three days a week with a handful of children — often between the ages of 5 and 10. (Prior to the self-quarantine mandates, the company would hold meetups at local libraries where kids has the opportunity to read aloud to dogs.) Each child gets paired up with a dog and can read to the pup for 12 minutes before rotating and meeting another pooch.
“We think part of the awesomeness is to see the dog on the screen,” James Haworth, the executive director of PAL, told The Washington Post.
For many children, the virtual reading sessions have been a nice change to their everyday routine.
“He’s enjoying meeting the different types of dogs, and he gets excited when he recognizes a name,” Alissa Gaiani, proud mom to Nicholas, 6, told the outlet. “He’s just been happy to read to someone other than his parents. It’s been a really good outlet for that.”
She added, “He’s really proud that he can read. It’s really given him a platform to show that off a bit.”
The program currently has 500 dogs and sessions fill up quickly. People can sign up on PAL’s website learn more about the reading program.