We’ve had this guest blog from Jocelyn Brown.
Reading to Dogs can Improve a Child’s Confidence.
Whenever it comes time to give a speech or presentation, my mind goes back to reading aloud in school. It rarely went well. The words seemed to move over the line, letters would rearrange themselves to spell different words, and my mind would fill in the gaps when I did get it right. Not only that, but quite often my eyes would scan from the end of the line back to the beginning thinking it was the next line. Kids would laugh at me, the teachers thought I was of low intelligence, and it was a struggle.
Enter the Reading Dog
Now my youngest daughter is also dyslexic and she too struggled to read aloud, but things have moved on since I was a child. Her teachers noticed her problems early on and instead of leaving her to maybe work it out for herself, she’s been given a wonderful reading dog – a chocolate Labrador, to read to instead.
Across the world, almost a billion people are still functionally illiterate. Some struggle due to their natural ability being low while others do not have the chance to find out if they are literate or not. However, many have lower abilities than they should due to facing too many hurdles and not receiving enough support.
How Reading Dogs Help
The idea of the reading dog dates back to an Intermountain Therapy Animals concept dating from 1999. In short, a reading dog is able to help children by just being there. Dogs are affectionate and attentive, but they do not judge. Being around dogs relaxes most kids – let’s not forget these puppies are trained to be calm, still, and not easily flustered. They may lay next to the child or have their head on their lap, but they will just listen. This lets children like my daughter read aloud to their heart’s content, getting to grips with the words and sentences in their own time and style.
Across Britain there are many other organizations helping children to read using dogs. For example, the Kennel Club have their Bark and Read Foundation while many schools now have dedicated reading dogs looked after by teacher-owners. Multiple studies have now concluded that one of the big inhibitors of educational learning is stress. Further research has demonstrated the ability of dogs to remove stress from people. It is now easy to see why hundreds of schools are on waiting lists to get their own reading dogs!