March 2nd is Read Across America Day, and today we invite you to read all about a very special kind of therapy dog: reading dogs.
A special relationship exists between children and dogs. Children like to dress dogs up in clothes, play games with them like make-believe. As children and dogs interact so effortlessly, reading to dogs is a natural progression.
When Did Reading to Dogs Start?
The R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) Program was founded in November of 1999 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sandi Martin, a nurse and former ICU manager, was inspired by seeing the impact therapy dogs had on her patients. She noticed the way therapy animals encouraged patients to make progress in recovery.
Martin connected the dots and realized how dogs could affect that same motivation in children who are struggling in the area of reading.
A pilot was initialized at the city’s public library. Staff looked on as children read to dogs for the first time as part of an event. It was an effortless success as the children instantly bonded with the dogs and soon all were lost in the world of books.
Now thousands of programs have sprouted from coast to coast. With each dog to child connection, magic is made as both reader and listener reap the benefits of this intimate therapy relationship.
Why Are Children Reading To Dogs?
The sight of a child reading to a dog is sweet and endearing, but it’s more than just cute activity. These dogs are trained therapy animals who understand the role they fill in the presence of children.
While it is a fun activity, it’s fundamentally about therapy. Reading is a foundational skill for young learners and it doesn’t come easy for everyone.
63% of 4th-grade children read below grade level. Intervention programs are needed to improve the state of literacy in our country. Studies have shown that reading skills can improve up to 30% through dog reading therapy. With regular sessions, a progression of benefits is seen for both child and animal.
Getting Comfortable with Reading
In the first phase, children become more comfortable with reading aloud. A dog will listen without interruption (adults tend to correct a child’s diction). Children who have felt uneasy about reading aloud may finish a book without even thinking about it.
Children who have been in traumatic situations, perhaps even bullying, deal with a lot of anxiety that interferes with their academic performance. Pets are known to have a calming effect on humans, so a dog naturally deescalates anxiousness and takes away the inhibition toward reading.
Performance anxiety is another issue. Some children may shy away from reading aloud because they are worried that adults will judge them or other kids will make fun of them. A therapy dog is there to listen without judgment.
Encouraging Kids to Read More
A side benefit of these programs is an increased desire in children to want to read more often and for enjoyment. Reading to dogs removes a child’s resistance to reading and causes the child to associate reading with fun!
For children who have been through challenging issues like a distressing home life, learning disabilities, and socialization troubles, a dog will have a positive emotional impact. The boost in confidence also helps the child’s emotional and mental well being.
What’s In It For the Dogs?
As dog lovers we know that they live for attention and affection. When a child reads to a dog, they soak up every second of a child who is reading to them!
Reading therapy would be a perfect job for a dog who has had a difficult life. Some animal shelters have invited children to come read to intakes.
Check out this video of children spending time with shelter animals!
Are There Any Dog Reading Programs in the Columbus Area?
It does not appear that there are any active dog reading programs in the Columbus area. However, AngelPaws out of Newark OH is a R.E.A.D. program affiliate.
Is your dog well behaved around children? Would you like to make a difference in the lives of children? While the R.E.A.D. program website is geared toward those living in Utah and Montana, it has plenty of information for those who are interested in volunteering with their animals including a suitability guide.
Either AngelPaws or R.E.A.D are points of contact if any are interested in promoting literacy through reading therapy dogs in the Columbus, Ohio area.
There are a number of obstacles humans may not have been able to overcome if not for therapy animals. Reading dogs have proven to be highly effective in improving literacy and mental well being for children.
While we may not read to your them, your Columbus Ohio area dog sitting service will be sure to supply plenty of fun and attention for your dogs.
Call or text us today at (614) 439-1621.