The experience of hearing a story read out-loud is largely shaped by the person who is reading it.

Suncoast Humane Society shaped a different kind of reading experience with their reading program.

The Humane Society brings therapy animals as the ‘reader’ to visit schools, libraries, the Sarasota Child Court, dependency court, the Homeless Coalition in Port Charlotte, and The Loveland Center and Senior Friendship Center in Venice.

The format changes, depending on the program they are doing, said Claire Berten, Pet Therapy Team Manager at the Suncoast Humane Society.

Berten said with all of the avenues the pet therapy team are involved with, they do an estimated 50-60 facility/program visits per month.

“At libraries, each dog will “read” with an individual child,” said Berten. “The goal here is to encourage reading, regardless of ability,” she said.

”The reading program offers a safe, nonjudgmental environment. The dogs never tease or make fun of a mispronounced word or slow pace of reading,” said Berten.

She added that the students are allowed to choose the book they want to read with the dogs.

Berten said in some schools, the program focuses on reading challenged students.

At the Island Village Montessori School in Venice, Berten said each dog and handler read with a small group of students, who will rotate so the whole class has an opportunity to read with the dog.

For more information about the program, visit www.humane.org.

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