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The Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic, Chevron, the Beale Library, and Marley's Mutts partnered over the summer to offer Kern County youth the opportunity to enhance their reading skills, discover great new books, and make a new canine friend through the Barks for Books Program.

The Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic's Links to Success and Tutor Time Programs offer Kern County children year-round educational and therapeutic programs. With funding and volunteers from Chevron's Community Investment Program the Clinic was able to partner with the Beale Library and Marley's Mutts to offer a fun, unique, and innovative 12-week summer reading program. The Barks for Books Program paired rescue dogs from Marley's Mutts with local students and provided a therapeutic environment to help them to develop reading skills, social skills, trust, and confidence. Readers also received reading assistance from volunteers from Marley's Mutts and Chevron.

Marley's Mutts is a nonprofit organizations that is dedicated to saving the lives of Kern County shelter dogs. These dogs were often abandoned, neglected, or abused and in desperate need of finding a new home. Marley's Mutts rehabilitates, trains, and re-homes these dogs while also educating the community about responsible animal ownership and providing therapeutic canine partnerships to those in need.

Barks for Books participants benefited from developing bonds with the rescue dogs while developing their own reading skills. "When children read to a dog they don't have to worry about the dog making fun of them for not knowing a word, or judge them for struggling..." stated Kristi Brown, Project Coordinator at the Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic."We have seen our readers open up over the summer and become more confident and social as a result of building friendships with these dogs."

The program was held at the Children's Story Pit located on the first floor of the Beale Library in Downtown Bakersfield. The Beale Library donated the Children's Reading Pit for the duration of the 12-week program as well as auditorium space for the Barks for Books awards ceremony. At the ceremony, readers received certificates of achievement, backpacks, school supplies, and a pizza party.

The Barks for Books Program is offered year-round to the public by the Beale Library and Marley's Mutts. The next session will begin in September. For more information contact the Beale Library's Susan Palm at (661) 868-0745.