Friends Fur-ever: Farewell to Angel Paws

December 15, 2022 | Caitlin Hill
Friends Fur-ever: Farewell to Angel Paws

Orange County Library System is sad to announce the official retirement of the Angel Paws to Read program. The library is grateful for the organization’s more than 15 years of service to young readers in Orange County.

Angel Paws, presented by Be an Angel Therapy Dog Ministry, Inc., started out working with local schools when founders June and Ross Feezel decided to approach the library with the idea of establishing a new reading program. Angel Paws was designed to provide a relaxed atmosphere that allowed children to practice reading to certified therapy dogs, without the stress of being judged or criticized.

Studies show many children experience anxiety when asked to read aloud in school. By sitting next to a calm therapy dog, they can relax with a furry friend and focus on reading. This has helped children improve their reading skills, develop confidence in their abilities and associate reading with something fun and positive. With their friendly, nonjudgmental nature, the Angel Paws to Read Program dogs have helped struggling readers find delight in a good book.

Several library locations have offered this program since the early 2000s, including Orlando Public Library and the Alafaya, Herndon, Chickasaw, North Orange, West Oaks and Windermere branches. To motivate readers and encourage completing the full program, fun incentives were available for participating. Children who read for three sessions received a free book, and those who read for six sessions received two free books. After nine sessions, readers received an official Angel Paws to Read t-shirt and Certificate of Achievement.

A young girl sitting on the floor, reading a book to a therapy dog wearing a vest

The Feezels say that they have enjoyed seeing kids connect to the dogs, and the commitment to reading that kids developed as a result. They say that they have gotten to know the families who attend the programs, and that they have enjoyed watching the kids become stronger, more confident readers.

From 2009 to 2022, 196 readers completed the nine-session program and earned a Certificate of Achievement. In addition to free books, those who completed the program multiple times were awarded other incentives such as bookbags, hats and special Top Reader shirts and lanyards.

This program created excitement for reading and nourished a deeper love of literacy among children. Dogs are the perfect audience for any reader, providing comfort and companionship. The Angel Paws to Read Program has contributed to the academic success of many children in our community. The library is incredibly thankful for this program’s service and its dedication to childhood literacy.

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