Read to Your Dog
Sep 19, 2012 12:12PM ● Published by Erin Frisch
Studies track improvements in grade school language studies
It turns out dogs are not only good for our health by finding missing people and helping disabled people live independent lives—they’re good for kids’ report cards too!
Canines have been found to improve the immune system and reduce blood pressure, among other health benefits. They help rescuers and law officers, blind people, and those with limited use of their hands and arms. Now we have another reason to celebrate man’s best friend.
“Dogs not only help children learn to read, they help children learn to love reading,” says Michael Amiri, coauthor with his wife Linda, of the children’s book Shellie, the Magical dog (www.shelliethemagicaldog.com). “And that’s true for children with and without learning disabilities.”
A Minnesota pilot project called PAWSitive Readers finds that trained therapy dogs helped 10 of 14 grade-school participants improve their reading skills by one grade level. Additionally, a University of California study showed that children who read to the family dog improved their ability by an average of 12 percent.
Amiri discusses some reasons why dogs help kids learn to love reading:
- No embarrassment: “Most of us have memories of reading out loud in class,” he says. “Though we may have been proficient readers, the fear of stumbling on a word in front of everyone was a constant source of anxiety.” Dogs are excellent for unconditional, nonjudgmental love; they won’t laugh if and when mistakes happen.
- Confidence boosters: “I never had a dog while growing up, which is too bad because I think I would have had an easier time gaining self-confidence,” says Amiri. As an adult, he discovered the many benefits of dogs through he and his wife’s very special Maltese, Shellie. She’s often the center of attention in their community at pet-friendly restaurants, where she laps her water out of a martini glass. And she has a full-time job as the greeter at Linda’s hair and nail salon. “If a little dog can give me, a grown man, more confidence, imagine what it can do for kids,” he says.
- Polite listeners: Like humans, dogs are social creatures and most enjoy the sound of a calm voice speaking to them. Many—except perhaps the most energetic breeds—seem to enjoy curling up on a rug and listening to a story being read aloud. They don’t interrupt (except for the occasional ear scratch) and they often show appreciation for the attention.
- A fun approach to schoolwork: Too often, when children think of studying, they think of time spent hunched over a desk struggling alone to work out problems and memorize lists. Interacting with a lovable, furry friend for an hour of homework is an appealing alternative.
Even if you don’t know a trained service dog for your child to read to, your family pet will most likely love taking part in story time. Try it out and see!