Does your child find reading difficult? Do they dare not read out loud in front of their classmates? Don’t panic, because the solution could in fact be… a dog!
A study led in the United States revealed that children who find reading aloud difficult feel more confident and less stressed when they are around a dog.
An American association called 4Paws had the idea to go to multiple schools with specially trained dogs. This program, known as ‘Readers of the Pack’, offers children sessions in which they can read out loud in a ‘calm, safe environment’, as their website explains. In multiple sessions, children are able to get up and read out loud in front of calm and attentive dogs that listen to them while they read.
Around dogs, children feel less anxious and intimidated about the idea of speaking in public. 12% of the students that participated in this study program found it easier and progressed during their reading sessions. Reading to an animal allows children to feel more at ease and less judged by others.
‘Even by going once a week, we’ve seen some huge changes in students’ attitudes and abilities,’ confirms Joanne Yates, the president of Readers of the Pack.
On Project Literacy online, Michelle Hua from 4Paws tells the story of a young girl that never dared to speak out in class, until she met a dog named Whitney.
‘I finally asked her if she was ever going to read to us. She brought two books, sat down, and began reading the first one. The entire class became silent. They had never heard her speak. She finished the first book and opened the second one and began reading. She has not shut up since.’
Although some may doubt the effectiveness of this study, other studies have proven the therapeutic effects of dogs while reading. For years, dogs have been used in specialized institutions. However, these new working methods are not yet extensive enough to be able to be properly evaluated.