WHILE AN AFTERNOON rain fell outside this past Thursday, children were holding hands with their parents as they trickled into the Lodi Public Library.

Kids wearing rain boots and coats excitedly entered the children’s sections of the library and were given numbered purple cards to have their turn in participating in “Paws to Read.”

Paws to Read is a weekly event held at the library where children are given the opportunity to read to certified therapy dogs alongside the animal’s handler.

Elise Truing, 8, reads to Bailey Marie, a therapy dog, during “Paws to Read” at Lodi Public Library on March 9, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

“They basically get to come in and read with no restrictions, meaning if they were struggling or reluctant readers out in their school environment they could come here and read to the dogs with no concerns,” said Yvette Herrera, Literacy and Programs Manager at the Lodi Public Library.

Herrera said the program started more than 10 years ago with a dog named Fuzzy, a small mixed poodle.

Now, the program is trying to rebuild following the pandemic and after three weeks has four dogs training.

Furry reading buddies

Bailey Marie, Cynthia Ehler’s Australian Shepherd dog, laid down next to Ehlers as children started to sit down one by one next to them on a blanket and read different books to the pair.

Five-year-old Garrett Ryan read “Xtreme Dinosaurs: Sea Reptiles” as his mother, Shannon, sat and watched the group.

“I think being with the animals helps kids open up a little bit more than they would to a stranger,” she said.

Sephiroth Truong, 4, waits alongside his sister Elise Truing, 8, to read to a therapy dog during “Paws to Read” at Lodi Public Library. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Mary Nguyen, a Stockton mother of two, said it was her first time joining this event, and she thought reading to the dogs could help reinforce her daughter’s reading skills while working on teaching her son to sit down and behave.

Marne Simpson, Paws to Read coordinator and trainer, said the animals brought to Paws to Read are local dogs and are certified to be therapy dogs through Animal Friends Connection therapy dog certification.

According to Simpson, anyone with a certified therapy dog can volunteer to bring their dog and the dogs can be trained to work in the program.

10-month-old Leonidas Faust eagerly searches the cart for a book to read during “Paws to Read” at Lodi Public Library. The weekly activity takes place every Thursday at the library, and features a different dog certified by Animal Friends Connection. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Paws to Read is held every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. At the Lodi Public Library, 201 W. Locust St.

One dog is brought to the library each week.