Do Your Kids Read To Dogs, Cats Or Other Pets?

Why your pet is a secret reading helper.

You may have noticed some cute pictures of kids reading to dogs in a local library or even at school, it’s not just cute, it’s a proven way of improving kids’ reading in early years.   Reading to a pet creates an environment where kids feel more relaxed and confident about reading – the dog doesn’t judge! If you’ve got a pet at home; dog, cat, fish, then encouraging your child to read to the pet will help them learn to love reading. 

Géraldine Grandidier, founder, designer and CEO of Tidy Books is delighted to welcome Bark and Read as her guest on this post.

Bark & Read is a UK charity and is part of the famous Kennel Club, created to help local charities bring specially trained dogs into schools for children to read with.  There are many organizations around the world, such as Bark & Read who bring dogs into school to help children read.  Ciara Farrell from the Kennel Club explains what Bark & Read does:

Did you know that dogs love books too?  That’s what Bark & Read is all about – helping children to learn to love reading with the support of these amazing doggy companions.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – DECEMBER 11: Langfaulds Primary pupil Reece Cameron (P7) reads to Willow the dog as part of supported reading at the school with dogs from Therapet on December 11, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. Shot for a Christmas box feature for the Evening Times by Catriona Stewart (Photo by Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times) – JS

How does it work?

This idea is very simple, but the effect, both on reading levels and behaviour is really quite remarkable. Reading to and interacting with a classroom dog helps children to love reading, overcome shyness and increase their confidence, and improve concentration and behaviour. 

“It is the highlight of the children’s week and one little boy who does not really talk went back after reading to Bob, stood up and told the class what he had done, with the biggest smile on his face.”

Sally Marsh, P.A.T volunteer at Bunbury School, part of the Pets as Therapy Read 2 Dogs programme

Reading to dogs is effective because of the calming effect of the dog’s presence.  The dog will listen to the children read without being judgemental or critical. This helps to nurture enthusiasm for reading and provides children with the confidence needed to read aloud and enjoy the experience of reading.

At Bark & Read we work with partners around the country that bring specially trained and assessed support dogs to schools and libraries.  Our partners are all established animal-assisted therapy charities with years of experience on how to make this a safe and enjoyable activity for dogs and children alike.  All the volunteers and dogs do this work at no cost to the schools.

“Google is a very handsome and interesting dog.  He can do lots of tricks – he is inspiring. I think since going to classes with Google I have been able to speak up more than I would have done before.  My confidence has also picked up. I was afraid of dogs before I started classes with Google, but I am not anymore.” 

Shauna, a Year 8 pupil at Chace Community School, part of Google (the dog) Literacy Project
Bark and Read dog Google working with school children in Enfield (Chace Community School)

Getting involved with your dog.

The dogs that do this work are ordinary pets, but they still need to undergo training and assessment to ensure they are suitable.

A good reading dog is one which has the right combination of training and temperament and excellent obedience is essential.  All dogs must undergo a rigorous behaviour and training assessment and must have the right kind of insurance. 

Getting Bark & Read into schools in the U.K.

Schools that want to have a dog come to visit regularly should also contact one of the service partners to see if there are volunteers in the area.  When the idea is floated in a school, members of the school community may want to volunteer their services – however, the correct training and assessment are essential.  This isn’t suitable for staff members’ dogs, as the dog needs close one-to-one supervision which isn’t compatible with teaching.  It can be really rewarding when other members of the school community such as parents and governors volunteer with their own dog.

Bark & Read Standards

Our Bark & Read Standards of Practice explain what these programmes are all about and what they can achieve, and to provide clear guidance to our service partners and to schools taking part. By putting clear, consistent and credible practices at the heart of everything we do, we can ensure that everyone who takes part, human and canine, has a safe and rewarding experience.  

“I just wanted to say thank you for a wonderful opportunity that George has had this term being able to read to the dogs. I’ve seen such a big improvement with his reading and also with his overall confidence. I cannot thank you enough for giving children this opportunity, such a great idea. My older son Matthew was also selected to read to a dog which helped him significantly with his development. He still loves talking about them.  George was also overwhelmed with his rosette & certificate.”

Parent of child taking part in the Caring Canines reading programme.

Reading to dogs creates an environment where children feel empowered to pick up books and read, much like the ideas behind Geraldine’s original design for the Tidy Books bookcase.  Kids who feel confident around books and reading will go on to become lifelong bookworms.

Tell us,  are there any organization like Bark & Read where you are in South Africa?  Or does your child read to your pet at home? We would love to see your pictures! 

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