The combination of dogs and reading may seem irrelevant, but it’s proving to be quite the opposite—specifically as a method for assisting children who have difficulty practicing this essential skill. Various dog reading programs are becoming exceedingly popular as their overall results show a great improvement in reader confidence and ability.

The main logic behind these programs is that children who are struggling with or feel insecure about reading can practice in a relaxed environment—and what’s more relaxing than hanging out with one of our four-legged friends?

Therapy Dog International (TDI) and Dogs On Call, Inc. are just two of the organizations transforming the way children experience reading. The former has introduced Tail Waggin’ Tutors, where select students—with the help of a trained TDI handler—can read to one of the many TDI dogs. TDI’s main objective is “to provide a relaxed and ‘dog-friendly’ atmosphere, which allows students to practice the skill of reading.”

By creating an environment that children view as fun and special rather than a chore spent outside of school working on reading, these programs allow students to simply enjoy the act of reading and gradually improve. They are less nervous and find comfort in the wagging tail or soft caress of a happy dog—which can translate to a job well done.

Dogs on Call, Inc. is involved in a Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program. The program launched in 1999 by Intermountain Therapy Animals and Dogs on Call, Inc. became an affiliate in 2004. The idea of the program is completely straightforward—reading to a dog. However, these friendly canines aren’t just your regular, neighborhood strays—they are trained professionals.

“READ dogs are registered therapy animals that volunteer with their handler as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. . . . READ utilizes registered therapy animals that have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament,” as stated on their website.

Jumping on the doggie bandwagon, many libraries are coordinating with organizations like TDI and Dogs on Call, Inc. to have these doggie rendezvous take place between the stacks—where access to whatever book the child wants seems infinite.

Reading is one of the most fundamental skills. Besides being a necessary tool in the workforce, it allows you to escape into a world of fantasy through science fiction, drama and romance—or someone else’s reality through memoirs and autobiographies—and to be deprived of that is completely saddening. If children are too afraid to open a book, they will never tap into their true potential or be allowed access to the thoughts, imaginings, and words of lauded writers, poets and playwrights.

Adding a cute pooch to the mix can encourage more children to read—but more importantly, to read well. To that, I say, let the dogs out.

Did You Know?

New York Times article states that reading for pleasure is on a steady decline among children. In a 2014 survey, 31 percent of children between ages 6 and 17 read daily for fun—which is a 37 percent decrease from four years ago. The survey recorded that children whose parents read to them consistently were more inclined to read on their own. The figures promote the idea that parents should continually read to their children—regardless of age—to keep the desire of reading for pleasure intact.