Reading theory

5 reasons why your kid should read to a dog

At the UCI Child Development Center, a study is underway to see if pet therapy benefits children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Here, Jaden Mills, left, and Christopher Bibona, both 9, take turns reading a book to Cinder, a golden retriever.

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By Andy McNaby

There are lots of great reasons why your kid should read to a dog. Yes, read to a dog. It’s a good idea, particularly if a child is a poor reader or afraid of speaking in public.

Dogs are non-judgmental listeners, who just want to sit and adore your child as she stumbles through all of the words she might be too embarrassed to read out loud to you or to a teacher. Plus, dogs are darned cozy!

Here are five more great reasons why your kid should read to a dog.

1. Dogs create a stress-free atmosphere
It’s hard to be really stressed around a cozy, friendly dog who is hanging on your every word, just loving the whole experience. Classrooms can be tense for kids who aren’t great readers or presenters. Reading to a dog makes the whole situation less formal.

2. Your kid won’t even know she’s building her vocabulary
Reading to a friendly dog is a great way for your child to practice her pronunciation. Without even knowing it, she’ll be building her vocabulary, becoming more interested in books and improving her oral skills. Kids may also become more motivated to read aloud in other settings, as they get better at reading out loud to a dog.

3. A confidence-booster
Dogs are non-judgmental. Kids will feel less self-conscious about reading aloud to them rather than, say, a judgmental human being. Kids who read out loud to dogs become more confident in their reading skills and will be less afraid to read aloud in class.  

4. Dogs like what your kid likes
Wanna talk about video games? Woof! Mermaids? Woof! A favourite cartoon? Woof! Dogs are interested in whatever your kid is interested in, and they’ll listen for hours and never get bored. They’re not going to roll their eyes when your kid reads the Pokemon Go manual to them for the hundredth time. In fact, they’ll just woof for more. As kids read to a dog, their verbal skills improve. They feel as though they’re in a friendly environment with someone who won’t laugh at them but wants to spend time listening to what they have to say.

5. Petting a dog improves reduces anxiety and can even improve motor skills
Just grooming or petting a dog can help to improve a child’s motor skills. It’s also been proven to reduce stress, stimulating the production of anti-depressant hormones. Petting or hugging a dog also provides valuable breaks in reading, which gives children a chance to process what they’ve just read.

Your child can read aloud to any friendly dog. There are also programs specifically geared to reading aloud to dogs. Some programs bring therapy dogs into classrooms, like Therapeutic Paws of Canada.  Toronto’s Caring Canine is a non-profit organization with “professor dogs” kids can read to. To find a program in your area, search Google using key words like “therapy dog” and your city. Or, just find a furry friend who’s friendly and longing for a listen!

Thanks to Andy McNaby for this terrific article. Check out Andy’s blog, Pet Gear Lab, which provides information, humour, help and advice to dog owners.

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