NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — At a time when reading scores across the Volunteer State are flat, a unique program is helping some young children get ahead.
The Middle Tennessee Reading Paws programs enlists therapy animals to be the audience for new readers.
"It's a special moment because they are not thinking of the external factors that go into this," children's librarian Casie Welch said.
Once a month, nine-year-old German Shepherd, Zarth, visits the Edmondson Pike Library. The children read to Zarth in a private room with him and his owner.
"Whether they read perfect or not it doesn't matter to him," said Toney Baily, Zarth's owner.
In 15-minute segments, children read to Zarth.
"He walks into any role I ask him to work in and he works and he brings so much joy to people," Baily said.
Clifford the Big Red Dog books are a favorite among the readers.
"We've heard many dogs book," Baily said.
Zarth is helping the kids become more confident readers and communicators.
"They are not honed into the fact that there is an adult in the room, they're honed into the fact that there is an animal and that animal is listening to them attentively," Welch said.
Zarth is one of roughly twenty animals, including a bunny, in the Middle Tennessee program. For a list of animals in the program visit their website.