Reading to canines is helping local children build confidence in their literacy skills.

Three afternoons a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3.30pm to 5pm — the Wanaka library hosts the reading to dogs programme.

Wanaka St John Therapy Pet team leader Janine Taylor was instrumental in bringing the Reading Education Assist Dogs (Read) programme into the area.

“I moved from the North Island to down here. I was involved with it up there, and didn’t realise it was not running down here,” Mrs Taylor said.

The idea behind the programme was to help children read in a non› judgemental, relaxed and welcoming environment, she said.

Wanaka St John Therapy Pet volunteer Lesley Jones said another benefit was children being exposed to dogs.

“Not everyone has a dog, so they get some confidence with being around animals.’’

Her 8-year-old dog, Baxter, joined Ms Jones in the programme at the start of the year.

‘‘The beauty of having Baxter at the library is we have different people visiting throughout the day so they also get to know him too, which is nice,’’ Ms Jones said.

While the child reads aloud the dog remains on the lead.

Dogs are assessed before being introduced into the programme.