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Bark for books

lady, boy and dog in room and boy is reading a book

Ten-year-old Labradoodle Ziva is a registered therapy dog from Denver Pet Partners. He enjoys each 15-minute reading session just as much as the budding readers.

Bark for Books (BFB) is a literacy program that helps budding and struggling readers build confidence and self-esteem by reading out loud to trained therapy dogs. As one piece of a child’s literacy journey, BFB is interactive and comforting without the stress of being judged by others; their furry audiences just listen, approve and give support while each story is read.

A Douglas County Libraries (DCL) program, BFB is available to independent readers ages 6 to 12 and has helped build many bright futures during its 15-year program.

Julia Salas, a BFB volunteer and student at Rock Canyon High School, struggled to read aloud when she was younger. Julia learned through the program that kids do read with more confidence when they read out loud alone or with a therapy dog because they are in a low-stress environment. She connects with the kids through her own experience. “It is really nice to see the different ages of kids enjoying this opportunity,” added Julia.

A study by researchers at the University of California confirmed that children who read out loud to dogs improved their reading skills by 12% over the course of a 10-week program, while children in the same program who did not read to dogs showed no improvement.

DCL partners with Denver Pet Partners (DPP), a nonprofit that provides the teams of volunteer handlers and dogs. DPP is dedicated to advancing the human-animal bond in order to improve quality of life, benefit human-animal interaction and enhance animal-assisted intervention services in Colorado.

The DPP handlers have earned additional certifications in education assistance to serve as literacy mentors. The dogs are trained to be very calming and are great listeners, providing motivation for children who may be reluctant readers but really love the animals.

Families can register children in 15-minute increments by semding an email to


By Julie Matuszewski; photo courtesy of Douglas County Libraires



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