When I shared here my guest post for Mom’s Favorite Reads, Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age, I was once again impressed by the interest you showed in the subject. One particularly interesting comment was by Missimontana, who shared a link to the Colorado Virtual Library website and to a post by Amy Hitchner called, Spotlight on Sharing: Therapy Dogs Help Struggling Readers.
I confess it had never occurred to me that reading to dogs could help children improve their literacy skills but, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. And it turns out that many public libraries offer “read to a dog” services to help children feel more relaxed while they improve their reading skills.
As one of the programs explains:
This program gives our young readers, at any reading level, a chance to read out loud in a stress-free environment to some very attentive listeners. Therapy dogs will visit once a month and will be ready to hear some good stories. Therapy dogs sit quietly and calmly while children read aloud to them, allowing children to become more relaxed and confident about reading.
And another program organizer says:
I feel we have come full circle, the children loved [our] program so much and benefitted from it, now they are giving back to the community as handlers with their therapy dogs. This has brought so much joy to all of us here on staff we wanted to share with others that are just starting out.
How Therapy Dogs Help Struggling Readers
Children who struggle with reading can find it stressful to read aloud in front of their peers or adults. The stress that they feel further inhibits the learning process, leading to a vicious cycle of low performance and anxiety. On the other hand, children who read to trained therapy dogs find that they make excellent reading companions because they are calm, patient, attentive, and always willing to listen without judgment.
This video from Therapy Dogs International shows the impact that reading to dogs has had on children.
I encourage you to visit the original site for more information and examples of similar programs, including events calendars and contact information for dozens of libraries.