Can dogs help children read?

It’s been a busy week over at Readingmate HQ and we’re delighted to announce the arrival of a very special dog, Rosie.

After a long and tiring interview process which consisted of lots of cuddles, naps and treats, we decided Rosie was the pawfect candidate for our C.W.O. (Chief Wagging Officer) role. So far, she’s been coping very well but still has a few things to learn including sleeping through the night and no pee pees on the carpet.

After a week of sleep training a puppy, I have a new-found appreciation and even more respect for parents out there. I know there’s no comparison but toilet training, sleep deprivation and working full-time is no joke.

In those moonlit hours waiting for Rosie to wee outside, I’ve found myself in Googling ‘can dogs help children read?’ and it turns out…the sleep deprivation hasn’t turned me completely bonkers (yet).

Dogs and reading – what’s the truth?

At my current school we do in fact have a school therapy dog who the children adore. We’ve also had visits from other therapy dogs in the past which has proven hugely popular with the students and adults alike.

It’s no secret that dogs bring (most) people endless joy. They’re unconditional love and unwavering happiness is enough to make the grumpiest of people smile. But more importantly, dogs aren’t judgemental or concerned about correctly pronouncing your phonemes which is what counts when it comes to increasing children’s confidence with reading.

How can they help with reading?

Thousands of therapy dogs are supporting children’s love of reading up and down the country. Whilst there’s multiple benefits to mental health and well-being when used as a reading companion, there’s evidence to suggest this has its merits too.

Unthreatening and welcoming, their presence is not only calming but great for children who lack confidence with reading. Reading aloud is an essential skill for all children to learn in order to develop their oracy and refine their understanding of phonics and sound blending. As well as this, it will also shift your child’s whole perception of reading from a negative and daunting experience to an enjoyable and fun one.

What if I don’t have a dog?

I completely understand that not everyone is a fan of our four-legged friends. If this is this case, why not set up a teddy bear reading club? If your child is a reluctant reader, this could be an excellent opportunity for you to develop their motivation to read. Or if you’ve got a furry companion at home and they’ll sit still for long enough (unlike Rosie) get started by reading a story together and including your loving pet (modelling first is a great way to get your child on board), and repeat it until your child wants to give it a go themselves.

Although there’s no denying I’m fairly sleep deprived, I genuinely feel there’s a generation of readers out there who can be saved by a waggy tail and supportive face lick.

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