They convey loyalty, unconditional love, and are often referred to as “man’s best friend.” They are far from only being cuddly pets: they contribute to a child’s reading proficiency.
Read to a Dog is an increasing popular program used in schools and libraries for children around ages five through ten. Children can practice their individual reading skills at their own pace to certified therapy dogs. A therapy dog is a volunteer-experienced, obedient and temperament-tested dog. Once a month we get visits from Trucker, G.G., Kody, Rocky and Oswald.
Children select their favorite piece of literature and attain 15 minutes with one of the two therapy dogs to practice their reading skills in a quiet, relaxed and nonjudgmental environment.
The Read to a Dog program is intended to assist timid children, children who may have learning disabilities, children who have trouble learning English as a second language or children who simply need reading practice.
In standard school settings, a child may feel humiliated if they have a thick accent or if they struggle to get through a sentence. They can become irritated when other kids read effortlessly. This humiliation can diminish a child’s motivation to succeed and will cause low self-esteem.
In our program, children can relax and snuggle with a dog while turning each page and treating the dog as if it were another student or teacher in class. The result is less restrictive reading in the calming presence of dogs. Children are not reprimanded for the speed of their reading, for jumping around in between sentences or for being cemented on a word they cannot pronounce. Instead they are at peace and in the moment, pointing to each word and presenting the therapy dogs their favorite picture book.
Read to a Dog not only assists children with literacy issues, but it also allows children to awaken their sedentary bodies. The reality is that our children rely on technology even for entertainment and this often causes visual and auditory sensory systems to work on overcharge while limiting their creativity. This program allows the children to get a break from their tablets and computers while allowing them to receive healthy sensory stimulation.
The Dundee library will continue to host Read to a Dog once a month because of the successful reading milestones that our children reach. After all, children know that their attentive audience will respond with a lick or with a reassuring head on their lap. Read to a Dog is not only a great way to build literacy skills, it helps children to associate reading with fun and companionship, rather than a boring chore.