With pandemic restrictions, reading program for children moves online

A young child reading to a puppy on Zoom
A young child reading to a puppy as part of the PAWS for Reading program Photo credit Courtesy of Kate Rosenthal of Paws for People

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As pandemic restrictions came down and library branches closed their doors, the children’s department at Parkway Central Library had to move a popular reading program online.

The PAWS for Reading program, which teams up young readers with furry friends, is meant to develop kids’ confidence and improve their skills.

Pet therapy nonprofit PAWS for People trains people with their pets — including dogs, cats, and bunnies — volunteer coordinator Kate Rosenthal said. Then a child meets with a pet and its handler online and reads to the animal for 10 to 20 minutes.

Rosenthal said this encourages kids to read because it has a physiological effect.

“Your heart rate calms down, your body decreases level of cortisol. You feel more relaxed and more calm. The reason this works even over Zoom is it’s an opportunity for kids to read to a nonjudgmental listener,” she explained.

She said the program builds confidence in young readers and ultimately strengthens their fluency.