February 17, 2022

Tails of the unexpected: Pembrokeshire library offers dog reading sessions


A therapy dog: getting really into audiobooks these days (via Pioneer Library System’s Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The UK is a nation of dog-lovers, with a PDSA survey estimating 26% of UK adults keep a hound as a pet; that’s around 9.6 million dogs. And with the coronavirus lockdowns seeing many of us spend more time at home, the last two years have also prompted a sharp rise in pet ownership—including man’s best friend—with a recent PFMA survey estimating “11% of all households have already welcomed a new pet and 10% plan to do so” since the virus caused global shutdowns. The trend is especially strong in millennials, with millions taking on a pandemic pooch (or cat, rabbit, chameleon, etc.): “Over one third (35%) of young adults (age 24-35) have already embarked on lives as new pet owners—or are planning to add a pet to their families.”

So as you may have guessed by now, our “lead” story this week has a canine theme: it comes from Pembrokeshire, Wales, where the Western Telegraph reports on the Neyland library in Milford Haven offering a literacy session with an unusual companion: Harry the dog. Harry will sit for an hour and “listen” as children read him a book. Aww!

Although the Telegraph does not go into great detail on Harry’s breed or cuteness (come on, guys), we do know that he is part of a Reading to Dogs scheme, other examples of which have been seen across the UK in recent years. A similar project in a Carmarthenshire school in 2021 yielded predictably adorable results, as reported by the BBC. The report quotes Dr Helen Lewis, a senior lecturer of education, who says that “[Reading dogs] really engage and motivate children.”

The dogs are said to boost both young people’s literacy, as well as their general confidence. But post-pandemic they may also serve another purpose, with a report on another therapy dog class in Selby, North Yorkshire last year suggesting the furry friends could help “to restore language skills among children who have lacked the opportunity to interact with others during repeated lockdowns and other restrictions … It is also hoped the sessions may be used to encourage adults with learning difficulties to practice reading out loud, without fear of having any mistakes corrected.”

As the old saying goes “outside of a book, a dog is a man’s best friend … inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Now, you don’t have to choose!



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.