Jackson, a big black lab, sighs as Cat and the Hat is being read to him. Jackson is one of three dogs in the Sit! Stay! Read! program at the .
Participants sign up in advance in the children's room for their 20 minutes to read to a dog. The program is open to readers age four to ten.
"It doesn't matter what books they read," said Children's Room Librarian, Roberta Donahue. "They can even describe the pictures to Jackson. It's about confidence. We love hosting the Sit! Stay! Read! program."
Evelyn Mills, 9, has been coming to the program each summer for the past four years. When it's their scheduled reading time Mills picks a book from the bin, and nestles on the comforter with Jackson, who lies down and closes his eyes.
"He's pretending he's in the story," said Paula Furber, Jackson’s pet partner.
Jackson and the other dogs are part of Wonderful Animals Giving Support (WAGS). The program is certified by Delta Society, a non-profit out of Oregon that according to their website is dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals." The dogs and their pet partners go through extensive training and testing and are recertified every two years.
Furber, started out with Jackson as a paraprofessional at Oakdale School in Montville helping children read and learn through the power of unconditional love. She brings Jackson to the local libraries in the summer.
"Jackson gets depressed if he doesn't have children around him in the summer,” Furber said. “This is as much for him as it is for the children."
At the end of each session, both the reader and Jackson receive a prize. Jackson gets a carrot and the reader gets a bookmark with a picture of Jackson. Additionally, readers can take their reading passport (another in the library), go to the reading room, choose a question, and select a prize.
Jackson, who started out as a sleek one-year-old reading partner at Mystic & Noank Library, is now a graying gentleman who celebrated his ninth year as a "Sit! Stay! Read! participant.
In addition to Jackson, there is also Bella, a yellow lab and Tanner, who are with their pet partner Barbara Cambria.
Sit! Stay! Read! Read to a pooch! runs throughout the month of July on Mondays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information about participating contact Roberta Donahue in the Children's Room at 860-536-7721 or visit www.mysticnoanklibrary.com.