Study: Children Who Read to Dogs Experience an Increase in Reading Level
Dogs have been used for therapy in countless ways, but helping children read? Really? "Yes!" say studies. Here's how.
A study was conducted with a group of third grade students from public schools and a group of home-schooled students. Each child read to a dog for about 15 minutes once a week over the course of 10 weeks then each participant took an oral reading comprehension test. Students in the elementary school increased their reading score by an impressive 12% while home-schooled students improved even more - an astounding 30%!
Now, the "Reading to Dogs" program has been implemented in 1,300 libraries and 2,600 schools throughout the United States. The name of the program exactly represents its mission. Therapy dogs are brought in, and kids are able to sit down and read a book out loud to a non-judgmental audience: a dog.
Librarian, Benjamin Macbean believes this is a great program for kids of all ages, “A lot of kids enjoy sitting there without their peers around," Macbean said. "There have been cases where kids have improved their reading skills dramatically. If it helps one kid, that's great, but it seems to help a lot of them.”
Macbean is a librarian at the John Steinbeck Library in Salinas, California, where they have offered the Reading to Dogs program for three years now. Every Wednesday at 3:30 pm, the pooches and the kiddos gather in the library to work on their literacy skills.
Cody Rathbun, a 9-year-old, participates in the event and says that “It was fantastic!” Cody read the book, The Enormous Potato, to a dog named Stormy Blue, a female Weimaraner. Other kids read to Maximo and Gabriella, two tan Chihuahuas.
Reading to dogs doesn’t just help a new reader's fluidity, comprehension, and retention, it also helps their self-esteem and confidence. Children said that they look forward to reading with a dog because the dog doesn't judge them or snicker if they mispronounce a word while struggling through a difficult passage. Looking back to my childhood, I remember how scary it could be to read aloud in class fearing giggles after stuttering clumsily or reading a word incorrectly. There's also a social aspect to the program.
Children learn how to take turns and share by waiting for their friends to finish reading to the dog. This gives kids the chance to learn social etiquette in large groups, while still having a lot of fun and learning the most valuable of skills.