This past March, Volunteer Resources staff member Marian Erb was lucky enough to observe the Story Pals program in action at the Fish Creek Library.
"I first met with Judy, the branch contact and her passion for the program is apparent in the care she devotes to it. Judy knows all the dogs, owners and participating children by name. She welcomes everyone as they arrive and her calm, warm personality sets the tone perfectly. The first four-legged volunteer to arrive was Dora, a little dog with a huge personality. She greeted us all with a wagging tail and friendly licks. It was lovely to watch the dogs greet each other with sniffs and wags as each of them arrived. The beautiful, silken-coated Bender was next to arrive and though he towered above her, Dora raced to greet him. All was repeated when the calm and gentle Angel arrived. It was obvious that they were happy to be together again and their owners assured me that the dogs get excited as soon as they pull up in the parking lot in anticipation of seeing the children.
Judy greeted the participants in the children’s area and took the first group in to read one-on-one with the dogs. Each child greeted and stroked the dogs and chatted with their owners before settling down to read. They had taken time to choose their books before coming in so they knew what they were planning to read. I watched each child settle down and confidently begin reading. They each took care to show the pictures to the dogs too so that they could enjoy the full story experience. Judy ensured that everyone had their turn and they happily read to whichever dog was partnered with them that day. I spoke with several parents who were all generous in their praise of the program. They have seen the children improve their reading skills, build their self confidence and for some, overcome their fear of dogs. Story Pals is truly a heartwarming experience for all."