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(Beach Animals Reading with Kids)

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 humane education.

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.

For more information about BARK please visit their website at:


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