A boy whose Dalmatian had recently died sat on the floor of the Redwood City library, reading aloud to Parker.
Parker, a big, black Labrador retriever, listened attentively for a while, and then rolled over so his new friend could scratch his belly.
Parker and the boy were participating in Paws for Tales, a program in which animals visit libraries and are read to by children. The program was launched by the Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals late last year.
The concept arose from studies showing that children who struggle with reading are more comfortable reading when an animal is present, said Scott Delucchi, the humane society’s spokesman.
“If a kid’s reading skills are just not as good as their peers’ for whatever reason, kids will sometimes be a little reluctant to read aloud — especially if they get stuck on big words, or stutter, or are slow readers,” he said. “But if the dog is part of that reading group, and they can focus on the dog, they can really develop their skills.”
Children respond well to the animal’s nonthreatening, nonjudgmental presence, especially if they feel self-conscious about their reading skills, librarian Margaret Glomb of the San Mateo Public Library said.
Parker, the black Lab, has provided that comfort, his handler Todd Trundle said. The pair has participated in Paws for Tales at Redwood City Public Library in recent months.
“Sometimes they’re a little hesitant at first because I’m there, but I tell them, ‘Go ahead and read to Parker,’ and I try not to look at them. Then they really concentrate and really work on reading the whole book to him.”