MALMSTROM AFB — Taos is a 10-year-old Labrador retriever. He is also one of several dogs the Malmstrom Air Force Base uses to help kids learn to read with their newly-revived Read To A Dog program.
The program was started as a volunteer opportunity to help kids learn to read and the program was mostly shut down and went virtual due to Covid, but recent months have allowed for in person reading to resume.
All libraries want to encourage kids to read, and Malmstrom’s Arden G. Hill Memorial Library is doing just that. Kids can come read to one of several service or therapy dogs in a stress-free environment to focus on building confidence in reading and not have people bark at them while they read.
Olivia Strauss and her husband helped start the program and organize dogs and readers’ schedules to allow a kid and dog-friendly environment.
“When they get to come and they sit with the dog, and they read to the dog and the dog isn’t looking over their shoulder, correcting them, mispronouncing, you know teaching them how they’re mispronouncing something,” Strauss said. “They take full advantage of their time with the dogs and it’s exciting to see them excited. We see the kids become confident in reading rather than trying to avoid reading.”
There are about 20 kids participating in the program right now and it allows them to be in an environment they want to be in, plus the dogs are good listeners too.
Annabelle Jacobs is a 2nd-grader that is currently reading several books to Taos and loves reading to a cute dog and focusing on learning new words.
“I was pretty excited. I never read to dogs before, so it’s been really fun, and I really like to do it,” Jacobs said. “I’m reading ‘I am Strong’ about Rosa Parks. I also like to pet him behind his ears. He likes that.”
The program is free to participate in and you can call the library at 406-731-4638 for more information.
While the program is only available to those with base access and visitor passes, the program plans on expanding to the Great Falls Public Library where they were several years ago.