Read All About It: BARK Reading Therapy Dogs
Grandma Lucy’s is thrilled to announce our new partnership with BARK Therapy Reading Dogs and the life-changing services their volunteers provide, just in time to celebrate both National Read a Book Day and International Literacy Day this week. BARK relies entirely on their volunteers to help children who struggle with reading to gain confidence and improve their reading skills. With programs in over 100 schools and libraries, BARK dogs and handlers give support and encouragement to children, giving them a listening ear and wagging tail that will never judge them. When BARK dogs aren’t helping kids, they also visit senior living facilities and nursing homes, veterans, and even college campuses to help students manage stress.
Reading provides a wonderful escape to the world of imagination and discovery, and is something that all children should be able to enjoy freely. Many children who face difficulties with learning to read fear ridicule from peers so much, that it prevents them from wanting to continue to try and can be detrimental to their self-esteem in and out of the classroom. BARK dogs allow kids to practice their reading out loud and work on difficult words they don’t know, but in anxiety-free and fun setting.
Not only is reading therapy beneficial for the children, but the dogs and handlers love it too! BARK volunteer, Linda, has found reading therapy to be the best way to give back to her hometown of Long Beach, CA and has now been a part of the organization for over nine years. BARK has been the perfect fit for Linda and her golden retriever, Lucca, saying “it was [helping] kids, promoting reading, therapy work…just making everyone’s [lives] happier” and loves that it gives a job to the dogs and a purpose to all involved. Lucca isn’t Linda’s only superhero as she shares, “I’ve had four dogs that have done this work… I’m here for the long haul!” BARK volunteers witness the miracles these dogs perform firsthand, from previously mute children speaking to the dogs, to a child affected by Autism being able to relax and finally find a moment of peace themselves.
BARK dogs come from many backgrounds, from dogs who were part of service and guide dog programs to former racing greyhounds. Founder of BARK, Josie, has had “at least fifteen dogs come from service dog programs over the years” who are usually “shoe-in’s because they’ve [had] so much training and great temperaments.” Therapy work can offer dogs who were unable to complete guide dog or service dog training due to medical issues or otherwise a second opportunity to utilize their training and skills, and to provide the dogs a job they need and love. However, a great therapy dog can come from any background and a little bit, or a lot, of training goes a long way! The most important quality for a reading therapy dog to have is their love of people. As therapy dogs, the children and people BARK dogs serve have to be their top priority and have their full attention while they’re working. Whether it’s a squirrel or treat time, no distraction can come between BARK dogs and their top priority- the children who need them.
Thank you, Josie, and all members of BARK, two and four-legged, for the miraculous work you do! Not only do dogs do so much for their people, but they facilitate their humans in helping others-one of the most important jobs anyone could have. Stay tuned to learn more about BARK and to see what this new partnership with Grandma Lucy’s holds. If you think your dog has what it takes to be a reading therapy dog or would like to help make your community better for our children, visit BARK to see how you can get involved!