Reading to Dogs ... a "Pawsitive" Experience
Reading aloud is essential to fluency and comprehension, but it can also be terrifying for young learners, especially when called upon to read to their peers in the classroom. How can teachers and parents help dispel those jitters, and give kids the confidence they need?
Enter the Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D., program, introduced by Intermountain Therapy Animals, a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City. The mission of R.E.A.D is to improve the literacy skills of children in a unique approach employing a classic concept: reading to a dog.
But not just any dog—R.E.A.D. dogs are registered therapy animals, who have been trained and tested for health, safety, skills and temperament. The R.E.A.D. dogs and their owners volunteer as a team, offering children an opportunity to improve their reading in a safe, comfortable and inviting environment. Currently, there are hundreds of R.E.A.D. teams volunteering throughout the United States and Canada in elementary schools, libraries, and other settings.
Dogs can be ideal reading companions for many reasons: they listen attentively; they do not judge, laugh or criticize; they encourage relaxation and lower blood pressure; and reading to dogs is much less intimidating than asking kids to read to their peers.
Research over the last 30 years has consistently supported and expanded our knowledge about the benefits that accrue when humans interact with other species, and animals appear almost universally to provide a beneficial and positive influence upon children, especially (Beck and Katcher, 1983).
According to teachers and administrators in schools participating in the program, children who work with R.E.A.D. dogs make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. But they have also reported that performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance and even personal hygiene. The children participating in the R.E.A.D. program have become more respectful of each other and of the animals, too.
Reprinted with the permission of the Parents' Choice Foundation. © Copyright 2012 Parents' Choice Foundation. All rights reserved.
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