Celebrating Our Furry Friends with a Pet Reading Program
“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”
In October 2011, I was in a state of transition. I had just returned from interning at the Library of Congress to a full-time job as head of a children’s department. I was excited about this new adventure but, to move forward, I was missing a furry friend. One day, a patron came into the library and walked up to me and said, “I have this male kitty cat I need someone to adopt. Do you know anyone who might want to adopt him?” I looked up, and it was an orange tabby cat. I smiled and told her I would adopt him. His name is Oliver Jones, and he has been with me for almost eight years through many highs and lows. I reflect on this story from time to time to remind myself how important animals are to the human journey.
Throughout my time as a children’s librarian, programs that combine reading with animals have been successful. My library’s pet reading program occurs one Saturday each month. A local teacher and her dog Wrigley visit the library and provide a storytime program for 2- to 5‑year-olds. Pet reading programs can be for any age group.
Steps in Creating a Pet Reading Program:
- Decide on the objectives for a pet reading program at your library. Some questions to ask might include: Will the animal be part of a storytime program where families have time to interact with them? Should a new read-with-a-pet program be created where children can register a time to read to them?
- Research certified pet therapy program websites for a directory of certified members in your area. The animals visiting the library should be a certified animal, not your pet or a patron’s or a coworker’s. Therapy Dogs International is one resource for you to check.
- Reach out to local certified individuals to propose the new pet reading program. At the initial meeting, ask them to send a copy of their certification along with any insurance/liability information. Keep this information on file.
- Schedule your first program. Do you want this to be part of a morning storytime or a new after-school program? I have done both types of programs with great success.
- Identify the space for your program and collect resources specific to this program. Children can bring their own book to read or search the library collection with the animal.
The following are my top picture book, chapter book, and nonfiction book suggestions. Although each of these choices have an animal theme, a child can choose any book to read to the animal.
Picture Book Suggestions
- Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (interest level: K‑3)
- Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (interest level: K‑3)
- If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff (interest level: K‑3)
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (interest level: K‑3)
- There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins (interest level: K‑3)
- Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (interest level: K‑3)
- A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young (interest level: K‑3)
- Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (interest level: K‑3)
- The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach (interest level: K‑3)
- Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings (interest level: K‑3)
Chapter Book Suggestions
- Magic Animal Rescue (series) by E.D. Baker (interest level: 2–3 grade)
- The Chicken Squad (series) by Doreen Cronin (interest level: 2–3 grade)
- Ranger in Time (series) by Kate Messner (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- Almost Home by John Bauer (interest level: 4–6 grade)
- A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin (interest level: 4–6 grade)
- Captain Pug (series) by Laura James (interest level 1–4 grade)
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater (interest level: 3–6 grade)
- Stuart Little by E.B. White (interest level: 3–6 grade)
- Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- Dragon Masters by Tracey West (interest level 2–4 grade)
Nonfiction Book Suggestions
- The King of Sting by Coyote Peterson (interest level: 2–6 grade)
- National Geographic Readers: Woof! 100 Fun Facts About Dogs (interest level: 1–4 grade)
- I Survived True Stories (series) by Lauren Tarshils (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- Animals that Make Me Say (series) by Dawn Cusick (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- Dog Days of History: The Incredible True Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee (interest level: 2–4 grade)
- The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford and Donald Cook (interest level 2–4 grade)
- Oh, the Pets You can Get: All About our Animal Friends by Tish Rabe (interest level 2–4 grade)
- 50 Wacky Things Pets Do (series) by Heidi Fiedler and Marta Sorte (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- Gross Me Out (animal series) by Jody Sullivan Rake (interest level: 2–5 grade)
- National Geographic Kids 125 True Stories of Amazing Animals by National Geographic Kids (interest level 2–5 grade)
Tampa Bay Humane Society Pet Reading Program
Here’s a video about a successful pet reading program at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. This video adds that these programs are not only essential to help a child with their reading, but they also help children build their self-esteem in a non-judgmental environment.
Read to a Dog Program at Pima County Public Library
Enjoy watching this video about a successful dog reading program at Pima County Public Library. This video stresses the importance that this program helps to boost a child’s confidence.