I love reading and I love dogs. That’s why the R.E.A.D. program, which helps children develop their reading skills and nurtures a love for reading by using therapy dogs, seems like a real winner to me.
When the words “therapy”, “assistance” and “dogs” are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind are dogs visiting patients in hospitals, dogs leading the blind, and dogs providing assistance to disabled people. But now there’s another type of therapy dog: R.E.A.D dogs, helping children gain confidence and improve their reading.
R.E.A.D. stands for “Reading Education Assistance Dogs”.
The mission of the R.E.A.D. program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors. How do dogs help? Literacy specialists have found that children who have difficulty reading, or who are below their peers in reading skills, are often intimidated by reading aloud in a group, have lower self-esteem, and view reading as a chore. In the R.E.A.D. program, children hone their skills by reading aloud to dogs; dogs that don’t laugh at their mistakes or snicker at mispronunciations or interrupt. Dogs are good listeners and are not critical, the perfect audience for a self-conscious reader. Kids don’t question whether or not a dog is listening, they assume it.
Research has shown that children with low self-esteem are many times more willing to interact with an animal than with another person. There is also indication that during such interaction, they are inclined to forget about their limitations.
The R.E.A.D. program is being implemented in elementary schools, preschools, after-school latchkey programs, healthcare facilities, and local libraries around the country.. The number of dog-and-owner reading teams in schools, libraries and other sites totals more than 750 in 45 states, according to Intermountain Therapy Animals, the Utah-based non-profit that created the program.
There are many benefits to participants in the R.E.A.D. program, including:
- Children improve their reading skills in a unique and fun environment
- The program can be implemented in many settings
- The program promotes another positive way that animals can make a positive difference in children’s lives
- R.E.A.D. can potentially be successful with older children, as well.
- It builds excitement about reading
- Most children just seem to naturally love animals, and especially dogs. Imagine the positive motivation this gives to the child as they sit by, read to, and pat a calm and gentle dog.
The program is geared to helping the children, but there are benefits for handlers, too. It gives people an opportunity to give back to the community. By helping children become better readers, the Dog handler volunteers are helping them to become better students, and in the future, more productive citizens.
For more information about R.E.A.D., please contact Intermountain Therapy Animals at 801-272-3439
Here are some perfect titles for the R.E.A.D. program:
Planet of the Dogs by Robert McCarty
Frankie the Walk & Roll Dog by Barb Techel