From boosting energy levels to providing life-sustaining companionship, dogs serve us in so many meaningful ways. Did you know that dogs are also excellent reading partners?
Established, canine-centered literacy programs across the globe continue to positively impact young children learning how to confidently read out loud. Literacy dogs don’t teach kids, of course; rather, they provide a safe, reassuring presence that allows for learners to flourish.
A Supportive Community
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) began in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since 1999, the organization has trained thousands of human handler/canine teams, launching the concept of literacy dogs into the mainstream. Literacy dogs are typically trained as Good Citizens through the American Kennel Club (AKC) or as therapy dogs, assuring libraries, community centers, and schools of proper behavior around children.
The main purpose of encouraging children to read to dogs is to create a non-judgemental space for children to gain confidence and develop a love of reading. What could be better than that?
A study at the University of California, Davis confirmed that over the course of a 10-week program, kids that read out loud to literacy dogs improved in school by 12%. Higher reading scores are just the beginning: getting over shyness and gaining confidence enhances social skills and increases empathy.
A Happy New World
Parents and educators know that reading to young children is paramount to their development. When little learners begin to read, it can be very difficult, risky, intimidating, and nerve-wracking. This is especially true in a classroom setting or when sitting with an adult, as the likelihood of mispronunciations and perceived judgemental corrections increase.
Literacy dogs won’t correct a child who makes a mistake. Instead, they provide a quiet, relaxing space for the child to self-correct. Indeed, when alongside an adorable dog, nervous feelings begin to dissipate, making the act of reading possible and enjoyable.
Without fear of judgment or grades, kids can relax and settle into the joyful experience of reading. The fact that literacy dogs make this possible is an added bonus to the research suggesting that kids are more successful in school after developing courage and confidence.
Get Involved with Literacy Dogs
Check with your local public library branch or school district if you either know a child who could benefit from reading to a dog or have a trained therapy dog you’d like to share with the community. Similarly, let us know if you are considering training your dog to become one of the most lovable literacy dogs of all time.
Make a Difference
Literacy dogs are among our favorite heroes. Not only do they bring people together (over books, no less!), they have the capacity to calm nervous early readers, excite those that might be bored by reading, and create a safe place to enjoy the wonderful world of words.
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