BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) encourages children
to increase their reading skills by reading aloud to certified
therapy dogs. BARK is a volunteer program that started in
September 2007, at Bryant Elementary in Long Beach with
four dogs and 20 students. They now have 90 dogs listening to children in 40 schools and libraries.
It can be intimidating for kids to read aloud to their classmates,
but they love reading to dogs who are calming, don't judge
them and never laugh if they make a mistake. Teachers and
principals find children in reading dog programs have greater
self-esteem, better reading skills, and higher test scores.
There have been amazing changes in the kids who participate
in the BARK program. They not only increase their reading
skills, but they gain self confidence and the respect of
their peers. In the course of their reading, if a child
doesn't seem to understand a word, a BARK volunteer might
say, "Rusti doesn't understand that word, it means
xxx." To check comprehension a child might be asked,
"What would Rusti do in that situation?" Each
child is given a bookmark with photos and information about
“their” dog. At the end of their eight-week
session students are given a new book (donated by Book Buddies)
that is signed and stamped with a dog paw. They are also
given a small stuffed dog.
Teachers say attendance improves because kids feel better
about going to school and they look forward to the dogs’
visits. Even the dogs get excited as they near the schools
because they know they’re going to see the kids. Most
of the books are about dogs and there are discussions about
Once a week children read to the dogs in 15 minute shifts
with each dog putting in about an hour. Occasionally a very
patient dog can listen to six or even eight children.
Schools must provide a room or library and a list of children
they feel will most benefit from this program. Everything
else (blanket, books, stickers, stamp pad, bookmarks, visit
reports) is provided by BARK.
||The BARK program is located in California.