Thursday, August 4, 2011

Therapy Dogs Help Kids with Reading Skills

 Three dogs sat patiently at the Morris County Library, Morris, NJ, recently and listened as 20 children took turns reading them stories.  The session was designed to help reluctant readers.

Five-year-old Dominic of Morris Township reads a dinosaur book to Bandit, while the dog’s owner, Marcia Lederman of Montville, and Dominic’s mother, Christina, listen.
Bandit seems interested in Dominic's book.
The Paws4Reading program, conducted in May, began at the library nine years ago.  Parents feel the program seems to help kids because there’s no pressure from the dogs.

“The dogs have a calming affect on the kids,” Thomas said. “They pet them and talk to them. There’s no correcting or ‘That’s not how you say it.’

Each child, in grades on to seven, picked a book from the library or brought one from home. The three therapy dogs arrived with their volunteer handlers, and each child could read to the dogs for 10 minutes.

When the program started, librarian Princess Thomas said she was hesitant to bring the dogs into the library.  “At that time, everything in here was new. “The carpets, the room, and we thought, ‘What will happen with dogs coming in here?’ But the dogs came with volunteers and it worked out great.”
Alexandra Speck, 5, of Whippany reads to Zeke.
Alexandra  reads to Zeke. 
On a personal note, as I have been visiting schools, presenting my children's book, One Pelican at a Time, I've observed this same phenomenon several times.  Dogs were brought in by their handlers, so students could read to them.  Each dog was extremely well behaved and almost seemed to listen to the kids read! 
The teachers to whom I've talked were committed to the programs and many saw immediate results.  One teacher told me the kids visibly relaxed when the non-judgemental dogs were "listening."

This very well may be a cautionary tale (no pun intended) concerning stresses put on children to perform at reading aloud.  Something to think about, I have no doubt.


  1. Our library has a similar program and I understand it helps kids a lot. But if I read to my dog at home she looks at me like I'm crazy. Maybe she's right. ;-)

  2. This seems like a great idea with the right dogs. They certainly can be noncritical and loving.

  3. I happen to be dog sitting with my son's family's dogs just now, and I read your post to the one that is sweet and gentle. She seemed to enjoy it.
    The reading program sounds great!