At first, therapy dogs Maji and Roxie are curious about the children who have come to see them at Edinboro Public Library. They greet them with kisses and wagging tails.
Soon, though, the dogs settle down, and Charlotte Solomon, 6, opens "The Mitten," by Jan Brett. She sidles up to Maji, a Kerry blue terrier, and begins to explain the story through the book's intricate drawings.
Across the room, a girl with special needs smiles wide and giggles when Roxie, a boxer, greets her. Before long, the girl shows the dog pictures of animals and begins to name them, and the dog lies down to absorb the attention.
That attention is a two-way street.
The dogs are part of an Erie County Public Library program in which children read to trained therapy dogs, who prove to be patient, dependable listeners. They don't interrupt, correct a young reader's pronunciation, criticize if they stumble over words or try to hurry them along. Their nonjudgmental demeanor can go a long way toward encouraging a child to spend more time with a book.
"I think the dogs enjoy it as much as the children," said Roxie's owner, Bruce Kindt.
Maji's owner, Diane Mann, said she has been doing this for years.
"We usually fill this room with children wanting to read," she said. "It's a proven way to encourage reluctant readers."