If you’re looking for something to do on a weekday night this fall, as the wintry temperatures creep in, the sun goes down early, and the outside activities are limited, why not visit your local library on a night when kids and dogs come together for a worthy cause?
The Deptford Free Public Library hosts FURever as Friends twice a month, the second and fourth Tuesdays, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The hour-long event promotes reading literacy for children of all ages with the help of therapy animals.
“I just think it’s a really fun way to bond with people, to get together, to read, meet people’s pets,” said Woodbury native Lisanne Waters, who brings her therapy dog, Trinka, to the library. “It’s just a warm, cozy kind of feeling. The kids enjoy it, it’s good for literacy so there’s a purpose behind it. It helps them in learning to read, but in a fun way.”
“It’s much more fun,” 10-year-old Erin Mays, a fifth grader at Shady Lane Elementary School, said of reading to animals, which on a recent night included three dogs and two rabbits.
FURever as Friends is a nonprofit organization with volunteers in Gloucester, Salem, Camden and Cumberland counties who give back to the community with the help of their certified pets. Like 9-year-old Maya, who follows Megan Haase around to libraries, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities.
“She loves it,” Haase said, speaking for her dog, who decided to wear sunglasses to impress the kids. “(I got involved when) my grandfather was really sick. He had Alzheimer’s, shingles and Parkinson’s, and I wanted to train her before he passed away. But he went down too fast. But she’s so mellow, that I wanted to do something with her.”
Among the goals for the FURever as Friends library events include helping to develop social skills and verbal communication among children and adults who may feel anxiety or discomfort with human interaction, building self-esteem and confidence in shy and insecure readers, and enhancing relaxation while reducing anxiety for people of all ages.
“I started doing it for myself, just to get out,” said Mary Woerner of Swedesboro, who brought her Cavalier mix, Zoey, to the Deptford Free Public Library earlier this month. “It’s a relief from stress. I found out about (the organization) through the owners. And I didn’t a have a dog. I found a dog five years ago, she’s my first dog. She finally passed her test. It’s a fun activity for the kids.”
For more information and specific event times, visit DeptfordPublicLibrary.org. For more information on FURever as Friends, email them (info@FUReverAsFriends.org), check out their website at FUReverAsFriends.org, or like them on Facebook.