Public library adds weekly canine companions for young readers

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Rowan Public Library’s newest additions are more book than bark.

Starting earlier this year, the library’s headquarters in downtown Salisbury began procuring pooches for regularly scheduled tutoring sessions. Called Tail Waggin’ Tutors, the sessions provide new and struggling readers with a relaxing environment to learn.

On Tuesday, it was Oliver’s turn to soothe young readers at the Rowan Public Library Headquarters. Two other dogs — Dupree and Thor — are also scheduled as part of a rotation that will include all three library branches in 2016. For now, the Headquarters and East Branch are the only ones with regularly scheduled dates. The headquarters hosts dogs Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. The East Branch has reading sessions with dogs on Mondays at 3:30 p.m.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors is specifically aimed at 7- to 9-year-old readers. Other children may read if no one in the intended age bracket is interested or reserved a time slot.

Jquawn Stafford was Oliver’s first reader on Tuesday. Stafford read through a book about Arthur, the well-known aardvark, while Oliver looked on intently. After a few minutes, Oliver lay at Stafford’s feet and looked up occasionally to check on Stafford’s progress.

After he finished reading, Stafford, who’s read to Oliver a few times, said books about Batman are his favorite, and he enjoys reading with the canine companion.

Tuesday’s second reader was Torese Evans, a local third-grader. Evans sat on the carpet reading her book while Oliver curled up next to her lap.

Melissa Oleen, who helped start Tail Waggin’ Tutors locally, said the program can be a valuable resource for readers who might be afraid to read aloud in school. It also helps raise self esteem for struggling readers, Oleen said.

“They’re non-judgmental, the dogs don’t care what you’re reading to them and they don’t talk back or criticize,” Oleen said.

Rowan’s three dogs in the program are all registered members of Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registering therapy dogs and volunteer handers. The organization’s website says dogs are trained to visit “nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever therapy dogs are needed.” Oliver, for example, visits patients in the Glenn A. Kiser Hospice House, Novant Health facilities in Rowan and Salisbury’s VA hospital, said Oliver’s owner Barbara Teichroew.

Teichroew also helps tutor readers during the Tail Waggin’ Tutors sessions. She said there’s been marked improvement in some readers during the tutoring program’s short tenure. Sometimes the readers turn books around and show them to the dog, Teichroew said. At the Rowan Public Library East Branch sessions, some readers lie down with Oliver or even use the dog as a pillow, she said.

The Rowan Public Library already has sessions scheduled into February 2016 for Tail Waggin’ Tutors and plans to continue the program indefinitely. It’s free to the public and allows children to bring reading material from home or select a book from library shelves.

For more information about the program, visit and click on the Tail Waggin’ Tutors tab. To reserve a spot for Tail Waggin’ Tutors at the Rowan Public Library Headquarters, call 704-216-8234. For a spot at the East Branch in Rockwell, call 704-216-7842. Each session lasts 15 minutes.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.