Kids of all ages now have the opportunity to sign up for regular sessions to read to a furry friend at the Madison Library.

The Madison Library’s Paws to Read program allows parents to sign their kids up for an opportunity to sit with one of eight therapy dogs to practice presentation and reading skills in a “judgment-free environment.”

Library Children’s Specialist Becky Bowen said the event, rolled out in August, has been met with enthusiasm.

“Everybody has just been so grateful for this program we have. We had one little girl who regularly comes in and was going to be late. Luckily we could help reschedule her, but she was very insistent that she make her appointment with that dog. It means a lot to these children,” Bowen said.

Tammy Terry, branch manager, said the kickoff party in August featured cake, three therapy dogs and more than 100 people. The participants can sign up at the beginning of each month for one of 70 slots.

“This is something we have been talking about for probably six years or so and it is great to finally see it come to fruition,” Terry said. “So far it has been met with enthusiasm.”

Each time the program is held, roughly three dogs are scheduled for 15 minutes a piece.

Chelsea Jeffreys has taken her daughter Ellie, a Madison Station first grader, three times this year. She said she has a seen a marked improvement in her daughter’s reading ability.

“She loves animals, specifically dogs. She just loves it and is really learning how to read,” Jeffreys said. “It really motivates her to practice at home so that she can read to that dog unassisted.”

She said her daughter has really connected to a golden retriever named Lady but has sat with other dogs as well. So far she has read a book about baby sloths, “Muddy paws,” and a book titled “I Will Never Eat A Tomato” and more.

“We think it is just a great program. We are glad its here and think it has been a fun outlet for her,” Jeffreys said.

Terry said that currently the event caters to younger children, but is open to all ages. She said she hopes this program offers a reference point for future events involving service dogs.

To sign up email Bowen at dbowen@mcls.ms or call the library at 601-856-2749