Many homes have children and college-going adolescents who are reluctant readers. The problem is so prevalent that teachers and parents often exhaust their resources to engage these unengaged readers. A therapy dog-assisted reading program can be just the perfect gift you can give to your loved one who has difficulty reading. Canine-assisted reading programs have been developed with tons of scientific research studies backing them up. This has been proven as an effective way to engage young readers. However, its benefits are not just limited to kids and adolescents in your home. You can also find programs for your older family members.

Studies on Dog-Assisted Reading Programs

Therapy dog-assisted reading programs provide students with a unique experience. It will provide your child the opportunity to read to a canine buddy or companion in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. Therapy dogs are specially trained for this activity and can help reduce your child’s stress and anxiety.

Several studies have found that students feel less anxious and more comfortable reading to a canine buddy. Some of the different and converging findings from the different studies are as follows:

  • It helps reduce the heart rate and blood pressure
  • Reading aloud helps boost self-confidence levels
  • Improved reading comprehensive and fluency

Canine-assisted reading programs are highly effective in engaging struggling and reluctant readers. And these programs have played an important role over the years in improving literacy skills. This is a reading strategy that can benefit anyone in your family, both in the classroom and at home.

Benefits of Canine-Assisted Reading Programs at School

According to research, therapy dogs can help improve social and emotional learning needs. When children work with such canines, they feel highly motivated to learn. This helps in providing improved learning results for both parents and teachers. 

Therapy dogs are widely used to assist children with their social and emotional learning needs. This, in turn, can help with literacy development too. Some of the benefits of using such canine buddies in schools has shown the following benefits:

  • Increased school attendance
  • Improved confidence levels
  • Improved motivation and positive changes for learning
  • Decrease in learner anxiety behavior, causing improved reading/writing levels

The studies also found that children show improvements in their relationships with both teachers and peers. This is due to their experience of love and trust with their therapy dog. This further made it possible for children to express their feelings and build stronger relationships based on trust.

Therapy Dog Reading Sessions

A typical reading session will involve therapy dogs introduced to your child as a ready buddy. These therapy dogs are trained and certified and love to listen patiently to stories. Children, who may find it difficult or boring to read out to a grown-up or their peers, mostly find it exciting to read to a dog. Even if your child is initially hesitant, they will soon realize that a therapy dog does not laugh at or frown on them when they make mistakes. These programs can also include a special educator that guides the session.

A therapy dog-assisted reading program is perfect for your child, as it develops an interest in them to read more. Such programs are increasingly recommended for kids with learning problems. The canine can help create a special environment where your child can overcome many of his or her inhibitions. Interestingly, this program is beneficial for children with learning or reading issues and normal children who find it difficult to read aloud to others or lack an interest in reading.

Benefits of Canine-Assisted Reading Programs for Adolescents

If you have a college or university-going member in your family who has trouble with learning, this may be the right time to consider a therapy dog-based reading program for him or her. Research studies show that university students experience a significant reduction in stress and anxiety when they spend a reading session in the presence of a dog. The same students also experienced an increase in energy levels and a sense of happiness. The differences in these factors were dramatic compared to control groups that spent reading sessions without any therapy dog.

Choosing the Right Canine-Assisted Reading Program

Depending on your loved one’s age and learning requirements, there are different levels of canine-assisted reading programs. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Pre-Kindergarten Program: Children get introduced to the concept of reading to canine buddies and start practicing it with therapy dogs. 
  • Elementary & Middle School Program: Your child acts as a teacher and reads out to a therapy dog that acts as a student. 
  • High School Program: Your child gets to spend time with pet therapy dogs and reads out to them. This program also helps with stress relief.
  • After-School Program: Canine buddy teams can visit students in an after-school program. Your child can spend time with the therapy dog team and read to a dog. 

There are also library programs involving your child reading to a therapy dog in their library and other children.

Interestingly, despite the proven benefits of therapy dog-based reading programs, many schools and higher educational institutions have yet to embrace their benefits for their students. Some of the factors limiting them include concerns about dog sanitation issues and temperament when working around children. These concerns are baseless and arise from the lack of knowledge that therapy dogs and their owners have undergone extensive training before being professionally certified for these programs. They have to undergo strict testing systems before being accepted into any such program.

As already mentioned, the benefits of therapy dog-based reading programs can also be realized by other members of your family. All it requires is finding the right program and organization. If you are looking for the right group to help you with your loved one’s reading and learning needs through such programs, it is recommended to contact K-9 Reading Buddies of the North Shore. You can reach out to them via this contact page.