Sally Collins | The Children’s Book Review | April 18, 2017
When we think of children’s books and dogs, we think of wonderful tales of young kids and their dogs having adventures. These can be realistic or fantastical, happy or sad. However, one of the most wonderful stories about dogs and children can be found in a growing number of schools across the world as well as some homes. These are dogs sitting next to a child as they read aloud – just the two of them.
How Children Have Been Put Off Reading for Generations
Being a child was a stressful and scary place for some of us. Those who are victims of bullying live in fear of being insulted, teased, mocked, and physically abused by other kids. This happens all over the place in class and in the school yard. For me, one of the triggers was how other children treated me when reading in class. Even at a young age, my mild dyslexia made reading aloud difficult. Any mistake was mocked and laughed at, either at the time or later when the teacher was not around. The teacher’s just assumed I was not so bright.
When my daughter started to show similar reading problems, I feared for her too, but luckily things have changed a lot in the intervening decades. Back in 1999, Intermountain Therapy Animals began their Reading Education Assistance Dogs or READ program. Since then, different schools, charities, and individuals have trained dogs to be reading dogs.
How do Reading Dogs Assist Children?
If a teacher, child, or parent realizes that a child is struggling to read; especially to read aloud, instead of putting them in the firing line of potentially uncaring children, they place the child alone with a dog. The dog will sit next to them, maybe with their head on the child’s lap, acting as a neutral, reassuring and calming presence, but also a non-judgemental one.
My daughter has been able to take her time to read to her school’s chocolate Labrador called Sarge. He’s getting quite old now and is a little portly and slow, but has a calm, reassuring face and presence. My daughter reads to him, he does not judge or criticise, and slowly, her reading level has improved. Reading dogs are a truly amazing addition to our schools and learning environments. They are helping vulnerable children like my daughter become better readers. Furthermore, they are proving that children who struggle to read aloud are not poor academically, but just that they need a little extra help to do one of their three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic).
This article, The Amazing Dogs Helping Children to Read, was written by Sally Collins. Sally Collins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible. Discover more articles and books by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Dogs, Literacy Resources, and Reading Tips.