Isaiah Stokes-Cardente reads “Weird But True” to Digby, a therapy dog, as part of Curtis Memorial Library’s “Read-to-Me Dogs” summer program. Digby’s owner is Moriah Freeman. Taylor Abbott / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — Curtis Memorial Library is offering a program where kids can work on their reading skills alongside a certified therapy dog.

“Read-to-Me Dogs” is a summer program hosted three days a week at the library as a way to motivate children to continue reading during the summer months when school is not in session.

Each of the five dogs in the program are certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a volunteer-based organization that tests, registers and supports pet owners who visit hospitals, specials needs centers, schools, nursing homes and facilities alike.

The program is part of the Pleasant Street library’s goal to increase community outreach; the library will also serve as a venue for English as a Second Language programs for recently relocated asylum-seekers.

Monday’s session included Moriah Freeman and her dog, Digby, who has been a certified therapy dog through the ATD since the spring.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have and train a therapy dog,” Freeman said. “Digby is my first dog. I’ve always felt that it’s so calming to have an animal around and I love the joy that animals can bring to people.”

The program, which runs through the end of the month, has sessions that last 15-20 minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is the first time that the program has existed during the summertime, according to Pamela Jenkins, library assistant director and manager of youth services. It is unclear, she said, if the program will continue once the school year begins due to scheduling conflicts with families.

The program was launched after a similar program had success during the school year at Harpswell Community School, Jenkins said.

“There are some older kids that do this program that can read perfectly,” Jenkins said. “Any reading practice is good, so we do not limit this program in a way that a school might have a criteria.”

Isaiah Stokes-Cardente, a 9-year-old rising fourth-grader, was the only child signed up to read to Digby on Monday. According to Jenkins, it is unusual to not have sessions filled in advance.

“I just like to read,” Stokes-Cardente said. “This is my second time reading to the dogs.”

Stokes-Cardente chose to read “Weird But True,” by National Geographic, at Monday’s session. Digby listened attentively throughout the session.

“We live in Brunswick and this is, by far, the best library I’ve ever been to,” Isaiah’s mother, Gwen Cardente, said. “He was playing with a bunch of kids at camp this afternoon and it was slow getting Isaiah to leave until I reminded him of where we were going. Then, he was in the car almost instantly.”

The program is open to children through age 11. To sign up, parents can call the library’s Youth Services Department at 725-5242.

“The kids love the dogs,” Jenkins said. “And anything that makes them feel good, comfortable and excited about reading is great to watch.”


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