Most of us are apprehensive about speaking or performing in public, fearing getting things wrong and being ridiculed. Research shows that young students can also become nervous and stressed when reading to others in a classroom. Read to dogs can help, many of the students chosen for this program have difficulties reading and as a result have developed self-esteem issues.
By sitting down next to a dog and reading to the dog, all threats of being judged are eliminated. The child relaxes, pats the attentive dog, and focuses on the reading. Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, whilst building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant.
How it works
The Therapy Dog is taken into a classroom or library and kept at all times on a lead and under the control of the Canine Concern Volunteer. The therapy dog is kept on a lead, but the student(s) should be allowed to sit (perhaps on cushions) close, so they can interact and touch the dog.
The Therapy Dog may also be shown pictures so the student can explain to the dog what the pictures are. This way they might feel they are teaching the dog, we always learn more by teaching others.
The dogs usually just lie down and relax, sometimes even going to sleep. If the Therapy Dog falls asleep, the student might be told he is just closing his eyes so he can concentrate on the story, so they do not feel the dog is bored.
At the end of the session the students have the opportunity to stroke and cuddle the dog. The process of petting dogs can help with motor skills and is also known to be a calming factor that can reduce stress, blood pressure, and anxiety. Reading to dogs can not only boost reading skills in students but also help with emotional and social skills. Sessions in both schools and public libraries are gaining in popularity, originally in America, and now in the UK.
Unfortunately, not all children are comfortable around dogs. Some children that have not had an opportunity to be with dogs or have had a bad experience, have a fear of them. As a child interacts with a therapy dog, they develop a better understanding of a dog and learn to trust in them.
All students learn by example, how treating a dog with respect can help create a good working, caring bond. A very important lesson for later in life, whether related to fellow humans or animals. For more details, or to get involved, please contact us.