Thursday, September 8, 2016

Can Dogs Help Children Read?

Anyone who spends time with one or more dogs on a regular basis knows from first-hand experience that these animals are capable of doing incredible things. Whether it’s something small or the type of feat that makes the local news, dogs can provide so much to humans of all ages. Since we are huge dog lovers and care a lot about sharing information about them, we want to focus on a topic today that’s nothing short of amazing.

Yes, Dogs Can Help Children Read

Even if you’ve had the opportunity to interact with an incredibly well-trained dog, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve ever met one who’s able to read. However, that doesn’t mean dogs can’t play an important role in teaching this skill to children. This is something that’s already happening all across the US, which is why we want to share all the details with you.

Although reading is a vital skill, it’s one that many children struggle to acquire. A common cause of that struggle is they view learning to read as something that’s very daunting. Helping children change that view is where dogs come into play. Instead of being the student, a child is put in the role of being a teacher or tutor to a dog.

A child and dog are paired up, along with an adult volunteer to supervise. Then either the child or dog can pick a book to read. From there, the dog gets comfortable while the child puts the book in front of both of them and begins reading. Since this type of dog is trained to pay attention, the child feels like they are teaching the animal to read. What makes this strategy so effective is through the act of focusing on teaching the dog, a child actually teaches him or herself.

Why Dogs Are So Useful for Teaching Reading

If you’re wondering why it’s more effective to use a dog in this setting instead of another student or an adult, it’s because dogs remove any feelings of pressure, embarrassment or humiliation. Instead of those negative associations with reading, children get excited about engaging in this activity with a dog. Schools have found that even for normally disruptive children, bringing a dog into the reading process gets them to sit down and focus on reading.

One of the first US organizations for reading dogs was formed in Utah in 1999. Since then, the organization has grown to over 1,300 therapy teams. Results of this and similar programs have been very impressive, including children being able to accelerate their reading from 9 words per minute to 24. Thanks to these types of successes, the future for dogs helping children learn how to read looks very bright!

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