Gerty the Therapy Dog Helps Kids Read Confidently at Berkley Library

Gerty the Therapy Dog Helps Kids Read Confidently at Berkley Library

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 23, 2018)

Berkley, MI- Gerty got as much love as she gave Saturday when she and her human volunteered at the Berkley Library for “Read to a Dog” day.  On such days, kids of all ages take turns reading to the fuzzy mutt, who typically grumbles in happiness similar to the way a cat purrs in contentment.

Bethany Nixon brought two children plus one of their friends.  Seven year old Roy and five year old Della both picked books about stars to share with Gerty.  “We went to the planetarium in Chicago,” Nixon said.  “So they’re all about stars and meteors right now.”

Between sounding out lines of “Meterorite Goes to the Museum,” Roy peeked over at Gerty to make sure she was listening and enjoying the story.

“They love reading.  I think it’s because we go to so many programs at libraries,” Nixon said.  “This is good because it gives them practice, and it’s more fun to them because they’re reading to a dog. It makes it something memorable.”

Eight year old Sophie Kelly loved reading “Cat the Cat, Who is That” while other children gathered on the reading train in the middle of the children’s room at the library.  The kids took turns petting Gerty, who stayed gentle and loving through all the attention.

Gerty’s human Rachel Berry encouraged the kids in their reading, helping them sound out words and asking questions about the books.  “Gerty loves cats,” she said as she complemented Sophie on her choice.

Gerty is one of thousands of dogs that are members of The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, an organization that certifies canines to go into places where a smile and a pet might make a difference.  Therapy dogs can help in many situations including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehab facilities, mental health institutions, schools, hospitals, cancer centers, hospice facilities, college campuses and can also provide therapy in patients’ homes.  And, like Gerty, they can go to libraries and schools to help encourage literacy by being a good ear for children learning to read.

Berry and Gerty became buddies two years ago when the doggie was found on the side of a road.   Berry trained her and had her certified so she could take her volunteering.  “I wanted to give back to the community and began exploring options. Because Gerty is so patient and calm, I started looking into what I needed to do in order to volunteer with her. I came across the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and started the process in order to get her registered. I love giving back to the community and Gerty gets so much out of it. She loves meeting new people and gets excited every time I put on her volunteering harness.”

They volunteer each week at McLaren hospital in Pontiac, and periodically visit libraries for Read to a Dog days.

“Gerty loves meeting new people! Come stop by and read her a book or just say hi,” Berry said. Kids don’t have to read if they come, they are welcome to just say hi and give Gerty a pet if that’s all they are comfortable with.

Read to a Dog happens each Saturday through Aug. 4 at Berkley Public Library located at 3155 Coolidge Highway in Berkley.  For additional information, call 248-658-3440 or visit


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