Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Dogs May Make the Best Reading Companions for Kids


If your young children have been begging you to adopt a dog into the family this coming holiday season, you may have just found a new impetus. New Jersey’s Newark Advocate recently ran a story about a group of dogs helping out kids in an usual way. Known as Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READs), these pets and their handlers were dispatched to a local library by a therapy animal organization called Angel Paws to help kids with reading. How? Not the typical blackboard method, that’s for sure.

Patti Shanaberg, founder and director of Angel Paws, explained that a non-judgmental environment is one of the most important parts of building a child’s confidence when it comes to education – especially something as public and potentially stressful as reading aloud. Simply put, dogs are companions who won’t judge any child, no matter his or her struggles. Lesley Pulsipher, the program’s international coordinator, explained that the dogs lend the young readers a sense of empowerment, wherein the students actually feel like they’re the ones teaching the dogs.

Has the concept worked? Implemented throughout the United Statesand abroad, the idea behind READs was pioneered by Pulsipher’s company, Intermountain Therapy Animals, based out ofSalt Lake City. Since the program started in 1999, studies have been conducted around the practice. The source reports that one data set from Intermountain shows that reading scores improved for most participating students in a district in Rio Rancho,New Mexico. Pulsipher herself says that a third grader who started with READs at a below-grade reading level excelled up to eighth-grade level over just two years – well beyond her age goal!

At 20-minute or less sessions, the program isn’t much of a strain on time or attention spans, either. Children sit with the dogs, the dogs’ handlers and the books. The calming effect of the pets’ presence shouldn’t be that surprising to anyone, as pets have long been known to lower blood pressure and have calming effects on everyone from children to the elderly. Not to mention, what kid wouldn’t like a confidence boost and a new animal friend all at once? It’s no surprise that READs is such a hit! This content post is provided by the pet experts at Hartz.