Go to the Newberry Library Branch on a Friday afternoon, and you might be surprised to see who people are reading to – his name is Beauregard.
And he’s a poodle.
A new program called Books with Beau began today and will continue every Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the Newberry Library.
The purpose of the program is simply to create a comfortable reading environment. While primarily aimed at children, people of all ages are welcome to sit and read with Beauregard, a standard poodle and registered therapy dog.
“Beauregard’s owner actually reached out to us,” said Karen Malloy, Newberry Library specialist. “She told us that she was inspired by similar programs in the county and wanted to offer her service here.”
One such program takes place at the Tower Road Branch Library in Gainesville. Every Wednesday, two to three dogs are brought in for library-goers to read with. This has been going on for about two months.
Alix Freck, Tower Road Library specialist, explained that there are many benefits to bringing in dogs to libraries.
“Dogs won’t judge you,” she said. “Young kids are often afraid to read out loud because other kids will make fun of them if they mess up a word. Dogs offer a comforting, almost encouraging, presence that kids respond well to. It does wonders for their confidence.”
According to Freck, studies have been conducted on the effects of reading to dogs. Multiple sessions of readings to dogs have actually been shown to raise children’s reading levels.
“This is almost exclusively done on a volunteering basis,” Freck said. “The library doesn’t go out looking for dogs. The owners call us and come to us. They’re eager to help.”
Dogs must be certified therapy dogs to visit Alachua County libraries, she said.
“Obviously it’s mostly kids who come to these,” Freck said. “But anybody is welcome. In the past we’ve had older people with developmental issues come in, and they really enjoyed their time with the dogs.”
Malloy said she is eager for the Newberry Library to launch Books with Beau.
“Most libraries in the county already have some type of program where they bring dogs in,” she said, “so we’re all excited to finally get to do it here.”
The Newberry Library recently reached out to Newberry Elementary School and encouraged them to bring over their young students.
“The timing of the event was set up so that kids from the elementary school can head over right after their classes let out,” Malloy explained.
More information about Books with Beau can be found on the Newberry Library website.
“We expect this to be a great program,” she said. “After all, who doesn’t love dogs?”