PAWS for Reading program combines therapy animals and reading for children in Burbank

Jaysha Patel Image
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Therapy animals help support kids as they learn to read
A program called PAWS for Reading at the Burbank Public Library is helping kids improve their reading skills. The children read their favorite stories to either a therapy dog or a rabbit.

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- The PAWS for Reading program is combining reading with animals.

"I feel like I would just stay here for two hours going from room to room to room to room reading to animals and petting them, because they're the cutest animals in the world," said Sofia Coviello, a 5-year-old participating in the program.

The PAWS for Reading started last year. Twice a month, therapy animals come in and help support kids as they learn to read aloud.

"Research has shown that kids are less anxious reading to therapy animals. It builds their confidence and reading fluency and skills and especially with the effects of COVID, reading levels have been affected to the detriment of our kids. So this is a good way and a fun way to get kids back in the library" said Jenny Darwent, youth literacy librarian at Burbank Public Library.

Therapy teams from BARK therapy dogs and Pet Partners volunteer their time, and kids are able to learn alongside a furry friend.

"I've had kids say they can't read and then once they sit for a few minutes with them, all their inhibitions go away and they've read entire books to them when they said they can't read," said Marcy Ellenbogen, a volunteer with Pet Partners.

"I think we don't have a whole lot of experience with pets ourselves. We don't have dogs or cats. We have fish, but no furry animals, and I think it was really soothing. It was really calming and I think it gives her practice reading to somebody else," said Nick Coviello, a parent.

The PAWS for Reading program happens every first and third Saturday of the month.

"I just like being close to furry animals. It makes me feel good," said Ben, an 8-year-old.

Timeslot signups are online on and it's open to anybody in the community.