Different Approach to Teaching Reading: Go To the Dogs

Children, Dogs, and Reading

First there were “men who stare at goats.” Now, we’re hearing about “kids who read to dogs.” Actually, it’s an interesting phenomenon. Children who read stories to dogs in an organized program or to their own pet at home have been found to become good students and score high on reading tests. This finding by University of California researchers is likely to attract the attention of most parents of pre-school and primary school youngsters.
 
Just think about it. Unless it’s a neurotic, yippy dog, man’s best friend is an attentive audience. He loves attention, and, if someone is talking directly to him, he’ll probably appear to be interested in the story . . . in-between licks, that is. He’s certainly not a negative or nasty critic, so the child gets some good practice reading in a no-pressure environment and, on top of that, builds her self-confidence.
 
It seems that programs using this concept are springing up across the country. Most are small in scope, started by the local library or school, but there are probably many organizations or groups out there through which a “reading-to-dogs” program would work really well. Can you think of some? You may even know of just such an effort in your community. But, as wonderful as these programs or planned events sound, your child doesn’t need to participate in one to reap the benefits described. All she needs are a book of her own or on loan from the library and a dog—her own pet or one belonging to a friend, family member, or neighbor. It’ll be fun for everyone.
 
Word to the wise: It may not work as well with a cat!