At first glance, Mango, the four-year-old Border Collie might seem a bit out of place in Warkworth Library, but he’s the perfect companion to be there.

Why a dog, you ask? Dogs are non-judgemental and make great listeners, so they’re ideal for children to read to. That’s why Warkworth Library started the Read to Mango programme.

Senior Librarian Heather Jackson is the driving force behind the programme, inspired by the Silverdale Animal Shelter, which occasionally brought puppies into the library for children to read to.

Jackson said the initiative was so popular they decided to make it a weekly programme.

“Our big initiative is promoting literacy, so there are various programmes to support that, including Storytime, Wriggle and Rhyme, and now Read to Mango,” she said.

The Read to Mango sessions are intimate, with only four children reading to Mango for fifteen minutes at a time. It’s quality over quantity in a relaxed setting.

“There are lots of studies. Dogs are very calming, relaxing, non-judgemental, great listeners,” said Jackson.

“Also, a great atmosphere brings different energy to the library, so customers love coming in and seeing Mango — not just the children reading to Mango.

“He really brings something different to the library.”

The results speak for themselves, too.

“Some children started at an earlier level and have moved up at least three or four levels to early chapter books.

“I think it’s really made a difference in their reading and confidence.”

The goal, Jackson said, is for reading to be enjoyable for children.

“We want children to love to read. The programme is a fun way to practise their reading. It’s not school. It’s child-led, so they can choose how much they want to read and what they read.

“We’re just here to support them.”

Helen Whyman has seen a significant shift in her daughter Bella since she started reading to Mango.

Confidence-building

“It’s really helped her confidence,” she said. “Two years ago, we came down from Kerikeri, and Bella was new at school. Soon after that, she sustained two injuries. That meant it took her out of all the activities she could normally do.”

During her recovery, Bella would go to the library and read to Mango.

“Being able to read to a dog gave her all the confidence she needed.”

Whyman would love to see programmes like Read to Mango in all libraries.

Chenay Collett’s daughter Ava looks forward to reading to Mango every week.

“She loves dogs. The fact that she gets to sit down and read to a dog makes it all that more exciting and encourages her to want to read and do well.

“She loves giving Mango a treat at the end as well.”

Reading out loud has its benefits, said Collett.

“Expressing the different question marks and exclamation marks and things like that. She’s saying that to Mango. It’s quite cute.”

Of course, not all dogs are as good at listening as Mango — it takes a well-trained and calm dog.

Ava’s family has a pet dog, but she doesn’t read to him because he’s a bit “full-on and doesn’t really listen.”

Mango — not just man’s best friend, but kids’ best friend, too.

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