Students who are reluctant readers, have poor reading comprehension, or a diagnosis of dyslexia often enter a vicious cycle.
When a person is introduced to a situation over and over again in which they are not given the tools to succeed they begin to feel like a failure and then they will begin to act like a failure — giving up easily or not even trying in the first place.
Even though many people with reading issues are extremely bright, the problems they’ve had with reading lead them to feel like a failure. And because reading affects every discipline in school, the student may be placed in remedial classes or even labeled.
Scholastic recently published an article about the benefits of reading to dogs. These benefits included building confidence and motivation which is essential in breaking the cycle of anxiety many students with reading issues face.
Additionaly, students who read to dogs were willing to spend longer periods of time reading thus increasing their reading speed, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills.
There are several programs nationwide that offer training and canines to help kids with reading, such as Intermountain Therapy Animals’ Reading Education Assistance Dogs program.
There are also some organizations like Therapy Dogs International that have community programs called Tail Waggin’ Tutors. They provide therapy dogs that can help children learn how to read.
Locally, SC Therapy Dogs has a program called BARK where a group of dogs comes to the library and local schools and other community organizations. During the summer children can sign up for 15 minute sessions to read to the dogs at the library. This is a popular program and the entire summers usually fills up within the first couple of days of being offered. The group is looking for more volunteers and has organizations on their waitlist.
There are other benefits to being around dogs including the release of oxytocin, reduced stress, and aiding children in overcoming emotional disorders.
Some therapy groups have started inviting dogs in with the sole purpose of letting patients pet them.
On a somewhat related note, it is important to recognize that dogs are exceptionally good listeners and this is the part that interested me both as a mom of four kids and as a reading coach. If you’ve ever tried talking to a dog you’ve seen how they will patiently wait while you pour your heart out to them.
Recently my 6 year old and I were discussing how he was going to learn how to read this year and he asked to see his curriculum. I pointed at our dog, Buster.
Buster, is a three year old mixed breed dog that spent over 100 days in the pound. Thankfully Anderson PAWS is a no kill shelter so when I finally won over my husband to letting us adopt a dog, Buster was still there waiting patiently for us. He is calm, patient, and although he loves long walks and a good game of fetch or tug of war, he is like the rest of the Nelson household and loves a good story.
It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to help people grow in confidence and overcome obstacles through the use of animals. Buster will begin his Canine Good Citizen Training soon. I’m so excited to share Buster our dyslexia dog with you soon! In the meantime, please feel free to share with me pictures of you reading to your pups.