MADISON, Wis. — Every other Saturday, a Madison veterinary clinic turns into a safe haven for young readers. 

Guardian Whiskers is a nonprofit started by Katarina Luther, veterinarian and owner of City Dog Vet and the Cat Care Clinic. The goal is to connect people and pets in ways that benefit them both. 

Every other Saturday, the Book Buddies program takes over the clinic on East Washington Avenue. Therapy dogs set up shop in exam rooms, and children can come read books to the dogs. 

“Reading out loud, it’s not always an easy thing to do,” said Michelle Livanos of Guardian Whiskers. “Especially when you're doing something for the first time, you're learning something new. So just being able to develop confidence and perseverance, and at the same time learning reading skills.”

Studies have shown kids may become better readers through working with dogs. But on top of that, they may enjoy reading more. 

“One of our readers has become to be a regular, Annabelle. And her parents have told us the last time they were here, that normally Annabelle is not that motivated to read at home,” Livanos said. “But when she is coming here for a reading session … she’s completely motivated about reading.” 

The hope is that kids will become lifelong learners through bonding with dogs while they read. 

“Hopefully that they'll take that love of reading with them through adulthood, and continue that love of reading,” Livanos said. 

Guardian Whiskers also holds Taradiddle Writing Contests twice a year. Anyone from anywhere can participate. Kids in two age groups write creative short stories based on animals. 

For more information on Book Buddies, click here