GLADEWATER (KYTX) - This weekend, the American Humane Association awarded a pit bull therapy dog in North Carolina the title of American Hero Dog for 2013. Elle's victory has brought attention to the use of therapy dogs in health care, grief counseling and education.
Now, an East Texas library is giving kids the chance to read to a therapy dog.
Learning to read isn't easy, but sometimes, no matter how much encouragement a child gets from humans, the blank stare of Dublin the Therapy Dog is appreciated so much more.
"Dogs can't talk," 10-year-old Joseph Muench said, "but people can."
Dublin appears at Lee Public Library in Gladewater twice a month for story time. Muench's mom Erin sees the difference.
"It seems that they've gotten more comfortable with reading and public speaking," Erin Muench said. "Using the dog seems to help them more in being comfortable."
A study in 2010 by the University of California at Davis found that children in reading programs who use therapy dogs increased their reading skills between 12 and 20 percent more than kids who didn't have a canine audience.
Dublin's handler, Kate Berger, says the reason kids loving reading to him is simple - he doesn't judge.
"When the kids make mistakes, they don't feel as nervous when they read to them. So it actually boosts their confidence and helps them learn to love to read," Berger said.
Like Erin Muench, Chelsea Hall's kids read to Dublin.
"Animals bring out a comfort in kids that maybe a person would be a little more intimidating," Hall said. "Pets just bring out the best, I think, in children, so that's more on their comfort level. It brings out the eye contact more with the dogs, and they're just comfortable with them."
Hall's daughter, Sammy, said she was excited to read to Dublin ever since she saw Gladewater Mayor Harold Lee reading to Dublin in the local newspaper.
"So we got to read to him too, because I wrote my own little story on a white sheet of paper, and so I read it to Dublin," seven-year-old Sammy said.
To find out when Dublin's next story time is scheduled, call the Lee Public Library at (903) 845-2640.