After a night at the library, stuffed animals help kids read

Story highlights

  • Stuffed animal sleepovers encourage kids to read, researchers find
  • One expert says to make reading a part of your child's daily activities

(CNN)A baby seal, a giraffe and a teddy bear walk into a library ...

No, this isn't the start of another corny dad joke. It's the latest way to encourage kids to read.
You can't help but "awww" at the images: An adorable stuffed puppy peruses the picture book section while a much-loved, understuffed bunny hops through the chapter books.
    They're the actual loveys of young children who left them at the library for a "sleepover." Library workers snap photos of them choosing books, reading together, bonding over "The Rainbow Fish." When kids pick them up the next day, they can see how much fun their little friends had with books -- and the hope is that it will encourage more children to explore reading.
    West Orange Library in New Jersey has been hosting the parties for more than four years. Its "stuffed animal sleepover" draws in kids through second grade who still get a thrill from a teddy bear party.
    For the sleepover last week, Faith Boyle, the library's director of youth activities, read "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale" by Mo Willems to a group of children and their fluff-filled companions. After that late afternoon story time, the children kissed their toys good night.
    A group of teenage volunteers quickly got to work, snapping photos of the stuffed animals in the library. There were images of a teddy bear and bunny holding hands while watching a puppet show and a tiny plush alligator reading about swamps. Even the photos of the monkeys sneaking Chips Ahoy cookies from the break room made it onto the library's Facebook page.
    "We try to engage children in a different way. ... It gets them excited about reading and visiting the library," Boyle said.
    In a study published Tuesday in the journal Heliyon, researchers monitored 42 Japanese preschoolers, aged 3 upwards, whose stuffed pals spent time at a library. They wanted to see how the animals could get the students