"When a child reads to a dog, it's easier than reading to a human," Tina Erickson said as her certified therapy dog, Norman, sat beside her at the Detroit Lakes Public Library.
The pair came to the library Saturday, Sept. 14, so kids could read to Norman. Erickson had reached out to host the event, said Eliza Gores, the Youth Services Librarian. She shared that this is their first time having the event, but they plan to host the same event on the second Saturday of every month.
Erickson and Norman regularly volunteer at other local libraries, schools and Boys and Girls Clubs. The positive impact of reading to dogs has been studied: Tufts University found that reading to dogs increases positive attitudes about reading and increases reading skill scores.
"I want to stay local, so that's why we're doing this," Erickson said.
Eleanor Lage, a 7-year-old student at Roosevelt Elementary, attended the event. She read "Duck and Goose: A Gift for Goose" and "Baby 123." As Eleanor read, Norman sat close beside her, Erickson a little further away, providing encouragement to Eleanor.
As Eleanor finished reading, Erickson pulled some Cheerios out of her bag. She said that Norman likes Cheerios, so she always brings them with for the kids to give to him after they finish reading.
To become a certified therapy dog, Norman went through a series of training. He had obedience training at Lucky Dog in Detroit Lakes, had to pass two tests and then was certified through Pet Partners, a nationally recognized organization in certifying therapy animals.
Erickson enjoys her time volunteering with Norman, saying that she was excited to be here today and that it's fun.
In the future, Erickson is hoping to bring a permanent program to local schools where kids read to therapy dogs. She is working with Lucky Dog in Detroit Lakes to bring more therapy dogs into the area, saying that "the more therapy dogs we can get in this area, the better."