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Kids Read, Dogs Listen, Reading Skills Improve

Updated on March 1, 2014

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.

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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.

Courtesy of OCRegistry
Courtesy of OCRegistry

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.

UCDavis Study

"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

Reading to Shadow
Reading to Shadow

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.

Shampoo please.

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.

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Two Hairdryers!

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.

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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.

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Are therapy dogs at your library?

Does your library have a Read to Dogs program?

See results

"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.

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.

Laoch (Lay-ock) the Guide Dog Puppy
Laoch (Lay-ock) the Guide Dog Puppy

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.

Photo: TDI

Brevard Therapy Dogs
Brevard Therapy Dogs

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

Do you know any therapy dogs?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Appreciate it for this unusual write-up and beneficial method to obtain data. I will be looking forward to use this along with my own little ones. Appreciate it lots for discussing!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Kids reading to dogs are a great way to have them reading in no time since they will always have the assurance that their reading is appreciated and so as a way of keeping their furry friends entertained the kids keep on reading to them. Talk of ingenious ways of encouraging kids to read, this takes the cake! http//


      Daniele Wren

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Tommy, a retriever, at our public library. And our pooch Doug loves hearing my son to read after his agility training while nibbling on his treats as well.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you for this enlightening angle on kids and reading. Who would have thought that when you throw a pet into the equation the kiddos get even more excited about reading!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      I love all dogs, and therapy dogs are exceptional. You encouraged me to keep training Buckwheat until he can work as a reading dog. Pinned to my dog board and listed with my own lens

    • sheilamarie78 profile image


      5 years ago from British Columbia

      What an amazing program! I love this idea. I've never heard of it before.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Okay, I have to write about what just happened recently with Josh. There is a young girl that was life-flighted by helicopter to the hospital the night before Josh and I were scheduled to visit. I saw her mother in the lobby the following morning and she told me how terrified she was during the flight, both from fear of the flight itself and in worry about her daughter. We had visited this girl several times before in the hospital, and the girl really likes Josh. But I didnât expect to see her on this visit after such a traumatic event.

      As we were ready to go home, a nurse called me from a patientâs room down the hall and said that someone wanted to see Josh. Here it was that little girl. She had overruled her doctor and insisted on seeing Josh. We couldnât go in her room because it was under positive pressure, but we sat on the floor in the hall as the girl wheeled her IV stand to the door and then sat down. She picked up one of Joshâs huge paws and held it between her hands as she told us how great the helicopter flight was.

      What a brave little girl. No wonder Josh loves her!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      What a wonderful program, lens and of course an adorable Josh, no wonder this lens was featured on the Squidoo Sharing Our Experiences: 22 Must-Read Lenses

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      Josh is gorgeous! What a wonderful guy he is to be such a hard working therapy dog. Your lens is touching, enlightening, beautiful, and fun. My cat Orion and I are in therapist training school. He plans to be a therapist cat. He started his training as a kitten too. Now we visit the hospice home across the street from us. He is loves all of his admires there. I bet Josh loves all his admirers too. Your parents and family are very inspiring!

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      What a fantastic idea you showcase. I've seen lots of therapy dogs but don't know any personally, though I support the idea.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      We know a doodle who is a therapy dog. A super dog with kids.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      What a fun way to encourage reading! I used to be a literacy tutor for adults; it's so important to foster good reading skills while the kids are young.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Diana Wenzel: Thanks for reading! My girls read to a trained rescue doggy at the library too. He is the sweetest Pitbull ever...I know, I know. I wasn't a fan of Pitbulls until I met this bundle of love. I wish I could volunteer in a shelter, but I would have to take all of those animals home with me! ; }

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      I don't know any therapy dogs, but I would love to get involved in a dog therapy program. As an animal shelter volunteer (dog shelter), I've often dreamed about training some of these dogs to be therapy or service animals. It would be a win-win proposition. Josh is so beautiful. That is quite a commitment your dad makes every week (and Josh, too). So worth it, I imagine. As a teacher, someone passionate about literacy, I am so appreciative of the Read to Dogs program and all who take part. Thanks for spreading awareness. This lens made my heart sing.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @tfsherman lm: Wonderful story! Yes, my Dad has also shared that some kids stand at the side holding on to a parent's leg for dear life...but then end up giving the dogs hugs.

      You know, I was bit once too. You need to respect dogs as animals, judging each separately. Unfortunately not all canines are friendly. Thanks for sharing.

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 

      5 years ago

      True story from my Gulf Beaches Public Library: A mother brought a little six year old girl to read to our visiting pet therapies, which included a small labradoodle, a shepherd, and a bunny rabbit. She had just been badly bitten in the face by a pit bull and had an horror of dogs. Naturally, she wanted to start by reading to the bunny rabbit, but after watching the little labradoodle for a while, she was willing to pet him, and by the end of the session she was even able to visit with the German shepherd.

      I have this program throughout the year and every week during the summer. It's the only thing that gets my local rec center kids into the place.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 

      5 years ago from Naperville, IL

      I've always wanted to work with therapy dogs. Our local hospital has an excellent program I hope to one day join. Recently we met one of the participants - a beautiful goldendoodle. Love this lens...beautiful photos!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I think this program is brilliant! What better way to encourage a kid to read more than to a dog or another animal. Wonderful article. :)

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks again everybody. I feel so happy that word is getting out about this program. The squidoo application of the word "blessed" is such a neat way of showing appreciation. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy. gosh,golly,ah shucks. grateful.

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      I just heard about library therapy dogs on NPR ironically last week. I think this is awesome that you are not only exposing others to this but partaking yourself. My dog was in training for Search and Rescue before we both ran out of time, so looking for other volunteer options for him. For now he has a little too much energy for this, but one never knows. Great job and blessed! (Also welcome to Squidoo)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      I've heard of these programs and if I were still a library director, I'd want to have it at my library. Especially during the summer when we have the summer reading program, it would be an enticement for kids to read.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      5 years ago

      This is lovely! I have a pal who trains therapy and law enforcement dogs... it's amazing what a dog can do! I love the idea of kids reading to dogs. Our beloved dog Inigo, who passed away last year, loved it when we read to him. These days we're keeping company with young Ruby, who prefers more active pursuits... someday she may enjoy it!

    • walkingstick profile image


      5 years ago

      I have never heard of this program, either. Having raised a reading family, I can vivdly picture a kid unfolding into a teacher and entertainer for an apt canine pupil. LOVE IT!

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks everybody for reading. Really flattered.

    • BestForTheMoneyz profile image


      5 years ago

      Dogs are just so cool that's the only thing I can say :)

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 

      5 years ago from Earth

      Like others notes, I'd never heard of this but it is a really great idea and lens. BLESSED!

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 

      5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      What a wonderful idea! I'd never heard of this, but as a dog lover I DO know what wonderful listeners they can be! BLESSED!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      My dogs love music and will always come to listen if I get my guitar out! So why not use them to teach kids to read. They are very attentive and hear every move and word. My wife and I met in Saudi Arabia and the dogs even picked up on the Arabic for walk "Imshi" and "Wahid dagedha" (one minute) which we had taken to using so they would not understand. Fat chance! Just 3 or 4 repeats and they know!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, I know of a dog (Snowball) who almost has the temperament of a library dog, but not quite (especially not around lizards, bunnies, squirrels, and cats). He's a laid-back Lab. Thanks for a great lens.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Susan, thanks for reading my lens. While researching "therapy dogs", I found hard core studies-evidence that dogs help kids with learning disabilities, autism, depression from trauma- the list goes on and on. I always knew dogs were great. : ) Now it is confirmed! Dogs rock.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love this program! I'm trying to remember if my boys read to our dog when they were little. She was always right there, so they probably did, or else they used her as a pillow when they read to themselves! Either way, dogs and reading both rock!


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