The American Kennel Club describes the personality of the English mastiff as "courageous and dignified, but good-natured and docile."

Monica Baughman, who has had mastiffs for almost 15 years, seconds that.

"They're gentle giants," said Baughman, deputy director of the Worthington Libraries system's Northwest Library. "They love this kind of work."

The "work" was listening, good-naturedly, to the voices of children at a "Paws to Read" event held at the library Jan. 22.

Many of the animals at the program were brought by members of the Mastiff Club of Northern Ohio, of which Baughman is the secretary.

Another description of mastiffs: they are massive. The website of the AKC says males can grow to more than 30 inches in height and weigh between 160 and 230 pounds.

The recent Paws to Read gathering was a repeat of one held about two years ago, Baughman said.

The program is about more than the cute image of little children reading to gigantic canines, said Kate Folmar, lead librarian at the Worthington Libraries branch on Hard Road.

"This is a good way for kids who maybe don't feel confident about reading," she said. "It's a good, low-pressure way for them to get comfortable reading."

The dogs were certainly comfortable being read to, sprawling on the floor of the library's meeting room occasionally stretching out a nose to touch a book or giving a quick lick to a child's cheek.

Many of the dogs brought by members of the mastiff club are trained therapy dogs and veterans of visits to not only libraries, but also nursing homes, Baughman said.

"He really loves kids," Stacy Gotti of Dublin said as youngsters crowded around her 4-year-old dog, Mack. "He loves when people talk to him and pet him."

"He just loves people, loves to be around kids," mastiff club member Steve Wisnieski of Mount Vernon said while 9-year-old Faraz Sherazee read to his dog.

Wisnieski said both he and his dog enjoy events like Paws to Read.

"It's very gratifying because a lot of times, especially nowadays, kids don't get to see a lot of animals," he said.

"It's nice to see kids walk up to him and realize just because he's a big dog, he's not a mean dog."