Children Discover a Love of Reading with the Help of Franklin Bark Readers

| November 15, 2013

The Franklin Park Public Library is pleased with the popularity of the new program for children called “Franklin Bark Readers.” This program, which takes place at 11:00am on the first Saturday of each month, targets children who may have problems with reading and need to practice reading aloud.

According to research presented in the June 2003 issue of School Library Journal, children with low self-esteem are often more comfortable interacting with animals than with people because it provides them with a nonjudgmental atmosphere in which to read. On their website (, Therapy Dogs International (TDI) states that when children read to dogs, they not only improve their reading skills and self esteem, they also learn to associate reading with something pleasant. TDI also notes that some schools that have enacted a “reading to dogs” program have seen reading scores increase as a result. In addition, this type of program gives children more interaction with dogs and helps them to understand the animal. It provides the added benefit to the dog’s handlers of being able to give back to the community.

Although it started with only two dogs, four certified therapy dogs are now available during the hour-long Franklin Bark Readers program. During the program, children are allowed to read to the dogs for 15-minute sessions that are pre-scheduled with the Librarian. The Library is excited to be partnering with members of Therapy Dogs International for this program. Children will be able to read to either Bloomberg, Breeze, Emmy, or Bingley.

Bloomberg is a 10-year-old Greyhound. He has been a certified therapy dog for almost six years. In that time, he has regularly visited a children’s hospital and VA medical center, as well as other facilities. When asked why he thought it was important for Bloomberg to become a certified therapy dog, owner Steven Anderson said, “Growing up with a lot of different types of dogs, I knew he was a smart one. Additionally, he seemed more perceptive than a lot of dogs I’ve been around. That as well as him being such a quick study when I started training him that it seemed like the next logical step.” Bloomberg loves lounging around wherever his people are and is the epitome of what Anderson refers to as the “45 mile per hour couch potato,” a loving term used to refer to Greyhounds. The one thing Bloomberg doesn’t like? Being left alone.

Breeze is a 12-year-old Greyhound and is also owned by Steven Anderson. She has been a certified therapy dog  for more than three years and makes regular visits to a children’s hospital in addition to the Library. Breeze also has a vitamin B deficiency and gets regular vitamin B shots. She has similar symptoms to people with the deficiency, such as shaking or having tremors if she stands for too long or bends down. “The kids will ask about it and it’s apparent that they like to know that she is like them… both that she has something wrong and has to go through getting shots like they do,” Anderson said. When asked why he decided to certify Breeze, Anderson said, “I had already certified our other Greyhound… so I already knew the many benefits to those being visited. The certification and visits also help educate people on the Greyhound breed and allow them to see how calm, gentle, intelligent, and loving they are.” Besides her duties as a therapy dog, Breeze enjoys treats, getting any attention and affection she can, and frolicking outside in the sun.

Emmy is an 8-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. She has been a certified therapy dog for 3 years. According to her owner, Arnie Hetzel, “Emmy is very gentle and really likes working with kids.” When asked why he thought it was important for Emmy to become a certified therapy dog, Hetzel said, “Some dogs just have a disposition that lends itself to being a therapy dog. We have three Bernese Mountain Dogs and Emmy is the best suited to this work. She likes working and if you are lucky enough to have a dog that is a good fit, it is very important to share.” In addition to being a therapy dog, Emmy enjoys walks and getting attention.

Bingley is a Shih Tzu that just celebrated his second birthday this past June. He was certified as a therapy dog in March of 2013. Of her decision to certify him, owner Cassie Mayer said, “I decided to enlist Bingley in the therapy dog program after seeing how people respond to him on the street. We live in a diverse neighborhood with people of all ages and backgrounds and so many people stop … and say hello to Bingley.” In addition to the Franklin Bark Readers program, Bingley has visited a nursing home and made several fans. According to Mayer, “The thing that makes Bingley a good therapy dog is he always effusively responds to any attention. Some patients (and people in general) aren’t dog or animal people, and he generally leaves them alone. But if a person responds to him, he becomes their biggest fan and showers them with love.” Along with being a therapy dog, Bingley loves American cheese slices, taking naps with people, playing with his uncle dog, and visiting new parks. He’s not a big fan of wind or rain, though, and often refuses to step outside once he sees that it’s raining. Mayer summed up the goal of the Franklin Bark Readers program: “It’s amazing to witness how people respond to animals. Something about the comfort of animals allows many people to let their guard down and come out of their shell.”

The Library thanks Therapy Dogs International and the dogs and their owners for their cooperation and participation in the Franklin Bark Readers program. For more information about the Franklin Bark Readers program, visit


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Category: Articles, Community News, Library Nook

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I am a Library Assistant in the Information & Digital Services Department at the Franklin Park Public Library.

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