Guest post by Kimberlie Hamilton
Everyone loves a story, right? As a children’s author who writes nonfiction about animals, nothing made me happier than to learn recently about a wildly innovative idea to bolster children’s reading skills – having kids read to dogs.
Yes, really. As it turns out, reading to dogs helps improve children’s literacy. In one study, kids who read aloud to dogs for just 10 to 15 minutes a week experienced a 12% increase in reading proficiency. In another programme, therapy animals were sent to schools and libraries to serve as reading companions for children. By practicing their reading skills with a buddy at their side, participating pupils boosted their proficiency by at least two grade levels within 13 months.
The question is, why does reading to dogs work? Here are six reasons why it’s a win-win:
Dogs are the perfect audience. Dogs are good listeners, never judge or laugh or criticize, and are happy to let kids go at their own pace. That’s a huge deal for children who feel self-conscious reading aloud in front of other people.
Kids and dogs have a natural bond. It’s estimated that 70% of children talk to (and confide in) their furry friends. I certainly did as a child…and still do to this day. Oftentimes, it’s just plain easier to talk to a dog or cat than it is to another human.
Animals with four legs help kids relate better to animals with two legs. Dealing with people can be difficult for some kids. Being around animals can lessen anxiety and provide a boost of self-confidence that often has a positive impact on their interactions with other humans.
Reading to dogs helps develop empathy and compassion. Shelters with reading programmes typically require young volunteers to attend a training session, during which they learn how to identify and respond to an animals’ body language. They also develop a greater sense of empathy by learning to see the world from a dog’s perspective. Kids have an extra advantage over grown-ups here, seeing as they are much closer to the ground!
Being read to helps fearful or shy dogs get adopted. Reading to shelter dogs not only benefits kids, it also helps the animals by making them more comfortable around people. An animal that is friendly and approachable is much more likely to be adopted than one cowering at the back of its cage.
Reading to dogs is FUN. Most shelters with reading programmes encourage kids to bring in their favorite books to share with the dogs and cats waiting to be adopted. That’s the thing about a fantastic book, isn’t it? It’s a pleasurable experience that can be shared with someone else. Especially someone who is an attentive listener, like a dog.
The great thing about all this is, a child doesn’t need to go to an animal shelter to experience the benefits of reading to a dog or cat – it’s something they can do right at home with their own pet. I might be biased here but I have a hunch that animals – and kids – might enjoy some inspiring real-life stories from Rebel Cats and Rebel Dogs. I’d be beyond thrilled to see a child reading one of my books to a furry friend. Hopefully someday. Fingers crossed.
This book Rebel Dogs! Heroic Tales of Trusty Hounds is published by Scholastic on 1st August costing £8.99. ISBN 9781407194356 visit the Scholastic website here.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.