The Children’s Activity Tent is a hive of activity throughout the Texas Book Festival. On Sunday morning, the most calm creature in the area was a 115-pound Swiss Mountain dog dressed as Bing Bong from "Inside Out."
Mouse, a Bow Wow Reading Dog with Austin Dog Alliance, lay still as children swirled around him, petting his soft coat, asking questions and reading to him.
The Bow Wow Reading Dogs are a volunteer group who visit libraries, schools, summer camps, Recycled Reads and other groups, Mouse’s owner, Jennie Chen, said. (Sunday, to match with Mouse, she was dressed as Joy from the Pixar movie.)
Children who struggle with reading may be embarrassed to read in front of adults or other kids, but they can practice reading to a dog without feeling judged.
Mouse, who is 13 1/2, has been helping kids read for four years. Dogs in the program must be certified therapy dogs, but Chen said, "One of the biggest things is the dog really has to enjoy it."
Vayda Davila, 6, was at the festival with her parents, Angel and Karla Davila, and her sister Bella, 5. She read "May I Pet Your Dog" to Mouse and said reading is her favorite thing at school.
"I like ‘Junie B. Jones,'" she said.