No one could call these dogs lazybones.

They watch children with their soulful eyes, listen intently and work at being supportive to children learning how to read.

These certified Reading Education Assistance Dogs don't even notice when children stumble over words. They just snuggle up close or put a head down in a small lap.

"The children establish a connection with the dog," said Sondra Westbrook, librarian at the Sinking Spring Public Library. "They can pet the dog and enjoy themselves instead of having someone paying attention to their reading."

Stephanie Mays, a retired first-grade teacher from Spring Township, and Shadow, a Bernese mountain dog and Labrador retriever mix, visit that library once a month. It is one of at least eight that has dogs visiting.

A one-day training session teaches handlers of certified therapy dogs to encourage communication between a child and the dog, Mays said.

"The cues should come from the dog," she explained. " 'Shadow doesn't know what that word means. Can you tell Shadow what that means?' You're working through the dog."

Dogs also participate in other library activities, Mays said.

"Shadow is excellent with children," she said. "They love to pet her. It really helps the struggling readers. Anything that promotes good reading and the love of reading is a good thing."

Contact Mary Young: 610-478-6292 or