- Family and Parenting»
Kids Read, Dogs Listen, Reading Skills Improve
Kids BEG to read to dogs at the library.
Wagging tails and doggy kisses encourage excited beginning readers. Added bonus: kids improve their reading ability by as much as 30%. Wow.
I'm a Reading Specialist. My 2 young kids are learning how to read. My parents have two therapy dogs who read to kids at their local libraries. I love, love, LOVE this program. Unfortunately, not very many parents know about this wonderful resource, or the great benefits.
Loving books and enjoying reading are so important in a child's education. Dogs can help. Your child can read to a therapy dog at the library. You can train your dog to become a therapy dog too.
Free Furry Tutors
"Read to Dogs" is a FREE program that can come to your library and help community kids improve literacy. (That's a fact.)
After reading this page, I hope you will give your local therapy dog chapter a call (links below), and use this FREE, and furry resource.
Why Read to a Dog? - They are all ears.
Dogs pay attention, and they are never judgmental. Dogs always give positive encouragement: tail wags, snuggles, and sometimes even kisses.
Teachers, tutors, and parents, by comparison, make reading seem like work. They are interrupting, making corrections, and introducing challenging words. Argh.
Dogs are much more supportive. For example, dogs don't care if a child reads quickly, slowly, or skips a couple of words.
Dogs don't even care which book a child chooses. Dogs will listen to "Captain Underpants" and classic children's literature with equal interest.
Finally, dogs are fluent in many languages. They love bilingual and multilingual kids.
Reading to a dog is a fun way to improve reading. Studies document how dogs help kids read! Check out the UCDavis link below.
Photo courtesy of OCRegistry
Click on the photo above for a link to the "Southeastern Guide Dogs" . They raise guide dogs, have puppy classes, and recruit puppy raisers in their area. My parents raised their guide dog puppies through this organization.
"Smith and colleagues explored changes in reading skills among third graders at school and among home-schooled students (in "Read to Dogs" programs). They found reading fluency went up 12 per cent in the school-based students and 30 per cent in the home-schooled students. Reading speeds also increased by up to 30 words per minute."
Stories to Read to Dogs - I wonder if the author, Sara Miller, has a child who reads to dogs at the library...
Dog Driven Success
"Educators we have worked with report 82% of BARK (Read to Dogs) students increased their reading skills, self-confidence, and/or class participation."
Canine Superstars - The Doggy Posse
My kids LOVE to read to a beautiful yellow lab named Shadow. Shadow is a therapy dog who works with the "Read to Dogs" program at the library. When Shadow goes to the library, there is a line of kids waiting to read with him. After reading, the kids gather outside to pat, hug, and scratch him behind the ears.
Shadow goes to his local library every week. Be sure to call your local library and ask about the "Read to Dogs" program.
Reading to Dogs - A PBS YouTube Video
Puppies Go to School
Learn. Train. Practice. Repeat.
This little black and white puppy is Josh. He grew into a 150 lb therapy dog. He is the handsome guy in my bio picture. Josh belongs to my parents, but I pretend he is mine.
In order to read with kids, dogs need to become official "Therapy Dogs" by taking a really hard doggy test. They start practicing for this test as a tiny puppy.
First the puppies start taking obedience classes. Their owners continue training them all day, every day.
For example, Josh heels (doesn't pull) when he goes for his daily 3 mile walk. And he sits before crossing every road. Josh can even "sit" and "stay" when kitty cats tease him, wheel chairs zoom past, or when toddlers grab his long, drooling tongue.
I like this trick the best. Sneeze and Josh will get you a tissue. It might be a bit slobbery, but a tissue nonetheless.
For a detailed list of requirements to pass the Therapy Dog "test", click on the puppy picture. The link will take you to Therapy Dogs Inc., another huge dog training organization.
Even after Josh took many puppy classes and learned many tricks, he wasn't ready for the library. He had to wait until he was 2 years old and was not so "excitable". Those strict librarians make dogs behave too! Just imagine 150 lbs. of puppy energy. Makes it kind of hard for anyone to read.
Finally, Josh passed his Final Exam at a dog school called Therapy Dogs International. He gets a certificate and insurance. Can you believe it? Doggy insurance. Sheesh.
So, when you see a therapy dog at the library, give him a pat and say "Good Job!". He worked hard to get there.
Every week Grandpa gives the dogs a shampoo. Josh has the fancy hairdo. He uses special "whitening" shampoo that makes him glow. Grandpa gets out the hose and lathers him up, rubbing and scrubbing all over. Wow, Josh looks skinny with his hair all wet. Watch out! Take Cover! Here comes the "Shake and Shimmy"! Josh likes to shake his whole body from head to tail to get the water off. He does it without warning, so be prepared to get wet.
Now it is Grandma's turn to brush out all of those tangles. She has two Industrial strength hairdryers duck-taped together at the nozzles to get that big doggy dry. It takes 3 hours from start to finish to get this big guy ready to visit the library.
Smile Josh! - What a ham.
This big guy stops traffic. Strangers roll down their windows and yell "What kind of dog is that?" At the library, kids gather around him to pet his ears, tail, and to touch his wet, drooling jowls.
Are therapy dogs at your library?
Does your library have a Read to Dogs program?
"Carl" Books - A book with no words?
How can a book with no words help reading?
Telling a story by looking at the details in the picture is GREAT for language development. The kids are visualizing the story, and attaching meaning or words to the pictures. Kids form complete sentences to describe the story. They use adjectives to describe details. They sequence the events of the story by using transition words and phrases like: in the beginning, first, next, after, finally, at the end. These skills are essential for reading.
Story telling with picture books is a GREAT pre-writing exercise. Before a child can write their own story on paper, they need to be able to tell the story. In fact, teachers have kids draw pictures about their story as a pre-writing exercise.
These "Carl" books are wonderful stories. They are beautifully illustrated. Kids of all ages love them.
Easy Readers about Dogs
Easy readers are great for kids because they don't feel frustrated with easier words. Also, the pictures tell much of the story. Kids can figure out words when they get stuck if they look at the picture.
Dogs Help Children Learn to Read
- Tail Waggin Tutors
Therapy dogs International is the organization which tests dogs so they can "work" in public places.
- Video: Kids Read to Dogs
This is a great video by Therapy Dogs International about Read to Dogs Programs.
- Article by BARK.org
A study at UCDavis compared kids who read to dogs and kids who didn't. Guess which group could read better.
- ABC News
Study: Dogs help children learn to read.
True Stories about Dogs - Kids LOVE true stories about dogs.
Sometimes kids write letters to the author of the book- and get an answer. My Dad, the guy in the picture with Josh, wrote the book about "Laoch, the Guide Dog Puppy." He answers ALL of his fan mail. He has a wall where he posts kids' letters. So cute.
Hey! My Dad wrote this book, and painted all the illustrations! (What a guy.) Laoch was trained before Josh came around. He is still working hard for his owner somewhere in Wyoming. This an outstanding true story about a puppy learning to be a guide dog, Laoch. This is my favorite guide dog book EVER. I know, I'm biased. : }
Therapy Dogs International - A Non-Profit Organization
Therapy Dogs International (TDI) is a non-profit organization run by donations. For more information on how you can get your dog certified as a therapy dog, or how to help this organization in other ways, please click on the photo.
I want therapy dogs at my library!
How to find certified dogs in your area.
If you would like therapy dogs to visit your library, school, hospital, or organization, just look for the chapter in your area and make a call.
Click on the picture to get a list of Therapy Dog Organizations near you.
Photo: Brevard Therapy Dogs
Therapy Dogs Inc.
Train, Test, Certify a Therapy Dog
Another non-profit organization dedicated to bringing therapy dogs into the community.
Click on the photo for the link.
Photo: Tails of Aloha.com