Tales for Tails


Six Mile Regional Library District hosts an event called Tales for Tails every second Tuesday of the month, and in the month of October GHW decided to sit in for one of their reading nights. In this article, we’d like to give a special thanks to Betsy Mahoney and Debby Weaver for their interviews and everyone else who participated. We highly suggest anyone with children or younger siblings checks out the fun events that happen periodically at the library, especially Tales for Tails. We will be putting our questions from the interviews in bold, and the answers in plain style.


Betsy Mahoney:

How did the library get in contact with C.H.A.M.P.?

We just emailed them. Liz is our contact and they provide the service to a bunch of different libraries in the area. We were lucky enough the owners of the service dogs live relatively close by and had another night available so it was easy for them to add (to the program).

Why did this library decide to get involved?

We realized that, especially children that have difficulty reading were nervous to practice in front of their parents, their peers, and really needed a non-judgmental listener and what better listener than a dog? Kind of a friendly, soft, cute, cuddly animal to sit next to and practice aloud.


How do the dogs help the kids to learn to read?

It’s just more of a comfort mechanism for the kids to know that no one’s really judging them while they’re sounding through the words. It really puts them at ease.

What age group does it typically appeal to?

We usually have first to third or fourth grade that we’re really appealing to, but some people bring their siblings in so we have Pre-K kids that are sitting next to their brother or sister, and that’s really nice because they’re hearing someone read too, so they’re getting a little pre-literacy education.

How do you prepare for the kids and dogs?

Well, what’s nice about this program is it really takes care of itself and the dogs come in and they bring blankets and we just set them up in kind of opposite corners of the children’s department so that way the other kids that are reading, there’s some space so they don’t feel like they’re being over heard or listened to and then we just take their names and we give the kids, depending on how many that come each time, about five to ten minutes to read. Then we have the two dogs, so they’re able to read to both dogs usually in that hour. It’s the same dogs every time, Nala and Toki. Nala is a golden retriever and Toki is a miniature Australian Shepherd and they’re just the sweetest, calmest dogs.

Has there ever been an instance where a kid reacted badly towards the dogs?

Not “badly”, we just had one little girl that was kind of afraid, so she’d just run up and kind of look at the dog, pet the dog really fast, and run away. She didn’t want to sit down next to or read, but that I think was just not being use to dogs, maybe she had a fish at home.

What is your favorite thing about working with the kids in the C.H.A.M.P. Program?

There are a lot of favorite things. I love seeing kids that came back multiple times and how excited they are. They have their favorite dog, and so they want to sit down immediately with either Nala or Toki and read. And then just to see them progress and feel more comfortable reading, and also more comfortable around animals. Especially if you don’t have pets this is a nice way to meet calm dogs and not be afraid of them.

How long has this library been in association with C.H.A.M.P.?

So we’ve had it here at the branch, this is our second year, the previous 2 years it was downtown, at Delmar and it started at the Niedringhaus school during the renovation. Then it was at the newly renovated building downtown.

What keeps you at this library working with the C.H.A.M.P. program?

The dogs are so calm and I just love seeing them every month. I mean it kind of makes everyone’s night, the staff’s night, and the kid’s night to have read to a dog ‘cause it’s just such a fun program. And then to see the kids really excited about reading, really excited about seeing the dogs, it just makes it fun for a night and a good day at the library.


Any stories that come to mind thinking back on the program?
Our last night in the spring, so that would’ve been May, at the end of school. We had 24 people, so that was probably twelve kids, might’ve been sixteen, and then with their parents, so it was just a crazy night between their two dogs, and there were kids everywhere, grabbing books off the shelves, and trying to figure out what was going to be the best book for them to read and it was just mayhem, but the best kind of mayhem, because everyone just loves to see kids happy about being at the library. So that was a great night.


Megan’s father, Jeff:

Have you noticed any changes in Megan’s reading? Like confidence, or how she likes to read?

Oh, yeah, expression. Not just from coming here, but school as well, you know she reads with pretty good expression, and she’s not shy.

You said she’s a 100 book reader?

Yeah, she read 100 books in kindergarten and first grade.

Megan: Officially, I read 230 books in 2nd grade.

Debby Weaver:

So how did you get involved with C.H.A.M.P.? Did you organize it, or is it just a local thing that you’re a part of?

C.H.A.M.P. is an organization in STL. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs and therapy dogs in the community, free of charge. Therapy dogs and service dogs both have to be trained. Therapy dogs are trained for 3 months, and service dogs take a lot longer, because of the type of things they have to do.


Is Toki your dog?

Yes, Toki belongs to me.

So how did you put her through this type of training?

I was acquainted with C.H.A.M.P.s because at the time I worked the Child Development Center at STL community college. It’s an early childhood center, and we were wanting to get some therapy dogs in there and so I contacted them, I became acquainted with them. It was after working with the Child Development Center, I had her for a while. I enrolled her in their program, so that she could become a therapy dog. She had to go through their temperament test and through slow median to insure that she could withstand the training, ‘cause the training can be kind of expensive. It’s about once a week, for three to four months. It’s a pretty good training program.