Teaching others is one of the best ways to improve your own skills, but people can feel awkward or critical around their tutors, which can put young or uncertain people off trying. Dogs, on the other hand, are uncritical and respond enthusiastically to attention, and these sterling qualities are being utilized by several groups to promote children’s literacy programs across the globe.Reading aloud to a dog may sound like an odd thing to encourage children to do, but it pays huge dividends in terms of children’s learning, confidence and socialization. The format of most dog-supported literacy programs is similar: Dogs are brought in to spend one-to-one time with children who need literacy support. Each child then reads a chosen picture book to a dog. Sometimes, the dog picks the book, sometimes the child; in either case, the pair are allowed plenty of time to snuggle and bond over the book, while the child “teaches” the dog to read.
Each dog comes with an adult volunteer partner to help with any issues, or difficult words, but as far as the child is concerned, the process is about reading to the dog. This removes any pressure on the child in terms of reading prowess and allows natural compassion and communication skills to develop.
Dogs entering the program are specially trained and certified to ensure child safety, and the schemes are recognized by therapy dog charities as a positive way to encourage more children to work with animals in a mutually productive manner. Animals from many different backgrounds are suitable; retired rescue dogs such as Bretagne, the 9/11 rescue dog who retired in 2009 yet acted as a tutor in her local area until her recent death, are particularly fond of working in this way, but most good-natured household pooches are happy working with children in this manner.Children reading to dogs may sound odd, but it is a great way for children to practice skills and learn compassion for both animals and people. It’s good for the dogs too; being read to allows them extra social time, which they adore. Even shelter dogs are getting in on the act, and they love every minute.
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