Library Dogs Help Young Readers
Libraries have opened their doors to therapy dogs in an effort to motivate children to read. In 2006, several trained therapy dogs and their handlers in Minnesota participated in a pilot program called “PAWSitive Readers” where children read books to the dogs. After reading to the dogs once a week for seven weeks, 10 of the 14 children improved their reading scores by one grade level. Since then, similar programs have spread to libraries across the country.
Results have shown that participants in these programs not only improve their literacy skills, but also develop a love of reading. According to Therapy Dogs International, these programs are successful because the therapy dogs are non-judgmental and won’t laugh at the young readers if they stumble over their words or make a mistake. Instead, the dogs lie next to the reader and simply enjoy the attention. This allows the child’s reading ability and confidence to improve.
The positive influence dogs have on human’s physical and emotional health has been well documented, and programs such as these are showing tangible results. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2002 found that the presence of dogs lowered people’s blood pressure while reading aloud to a dog. The study’s findings went on to state that pets can also reduce the perception of stress. A 2011 study published by the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University found second-grade students maintained their reading skills over the summer if they read aloud to dogs. This increased their self confidence and improved their literacy skills when they returned to school after summer vacation.
For more information on these programs or to start one in your area, check out the following resources:
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