Leo’s owner, Michelle McCarthy, introduced the monthly reading dog program to the Chelsea library four years ago. Hundreds of children have participated.
“Research shows children learn to read with more fluidity when they read out loud in a calm, nonjudgmental environment with no grading and no prompting,” says Karen Persello, McKune’s head of youth and teen services. Dogs don’t talk back, nor do they hover like parents.
My third-grader, Andy, has brought a favorite from home—his Diary of a Wimpy Kid paperback. When I ask whether I may remain in the designated reading room to observe, Persello politely ushers me out. “Eagerness on the part of parents can be interpreted as pressure,” she says.
When Andy emerges, he’s smiling. “I think the dog fell asleep when I was reading,” he says. That’s how calm the dog was. And he says the dog told him a secret (via Bowles) about how dogs help blind people get through airports.