When children are learning to read, one of the best ways to practice is by reading out loud. For some children, though, the thought of this can be terrifying. What if they don’t know a word or pronounce something wrong; will everyone laugh?
A recent paper by researchers at the University of Lincoln has concluded that dogs might be the perfect solution to these concerns. After reviewing forty-eight papers about the effects of programs in which children read to dogs, the overall finding was that these programs do, in fact, lead to improved reading performance.
The researchers discovered a common theme between each of the studies; when children read out loud to dogs, they have a captive and non-judgemental audience to practice with. When children don’t have to worry about making mistakes, their anxiety is reduced, their confidence is increased, and they have more motivation to practice their reading. Each of these factors contributes to a significant improvement in overall reading performance.
It should be noted that studies of this kind are fairly new, so the results must be taken with a grain of salt. Small sample sizes and lack of control groups may mean slightly skewed results, but despite this the results are still promising.
The great thing about using dogs to improve literacy in children is that it’s a very cost-effective program to implement. Utilizing volunteer dogs and handlers, these programs can be easy organized in schools, libraries, and other locations in cities worldwide. As the programs would most likely be on a volunteer basis, there would be no barriers to access for children from lower income families or neighborhoods.
If you think that your dog would be a good reading buddy, try looking for a literacy program, such as Intermountain Therapy Animals, in your community that is in need of volunteers. Your dog may not be able to read, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help someone else learn to!
H/t to: Companion Animal Psychology