Who let the dogs out…to help kids learn to read?
By Ivy on September 9th, 2011
This past Saturday, I became a proud dog owner. I drove 2 hours out of the city to Pets Alive in Middletown, NY to adopt and bring home my new best friend, Lucas, a Border Collie mix (pictured below). Lucas has an incredibly calm and sweet personality, which reminded me of therapy dogs. There are many types of therapy dogs, from those who assist war veterans to those who visit the sick in hospitals. But, did you know that there are therapy dogs whose job is to help kids improve their reading skills?
Classrooms, learning centers, and libraries around the country are welcoming dogs to sit in and listen to kids read…and kids LOVE IT! Dogs are wonderful listeners, and don’t judge kids if they make a mistake reading or rush them to get the words out. As a bonus, they love to give kisses and their goofiness can put even the most nervous readers at ease.
“Kids have to practice, practice, practice to be good readers, and yet, when you’re practicing, if you make a mistake, it can feel risky or uncomfortable,” said Francie Alexander, Scholastic’s Chief Academic Officer, in an interview with Good Morning America. “But if you’re practicing with a dog, and the dog is nonjudgmental, you don’t mind making the mistake. In fact, you’ll probably correct it.”
A recent study published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University reported that a group of second-graders who read aloud to a dog saw a slight gain in their reading skills and a shift in their attitude toward reading.
Of course, dogs benefit from the experience, too! They get to bond and socialize with kids – plus, they get to hear a good story!
If you’re looking for an opportunity to pair your young reader with a furry friend, check with your local library first. Over the years, libraries have created more programs that allow kids to practice their reading with eager-to-listen pups. Indianola Public Library has a young readers’ program called “Tales to Tails,” giving kids the chance to read to dogs. Or visit librarydogs.com to learn more about ways to start a program at your library.
You can also check with a nearby R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program . R.E.A.D. has registered therapy dogs who visit schools, libraries, and many other workshops as reading companions for kids.
One day Lucas will join his friends and help kids become comfortable with reading. We’re going to practice at home tonight. Fortunately, his mom works at Scholastic and has plenty of doggy picture books at home like David Shannon’s Good Boy, Fergus!, Mark Teague’s Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, and of course, Clifford the Big Red Dog!