Did everyone catch the recent medical study that showed kids’ reading skill and speed both improved when they read to dogs?
This makes sense, for at least a couple of reasons. Most importantly, reading to a fuzzy animal who won’t judge, criticize, or correct you takes the pressure off the reading-aloud experience. Secondly, reading aloud to a creature who cannot read at all turns even struggling readers into experts by comparison. Both circumstances build confidence. And let’s face it, cuddling up with a furball to read aloud is a lot less intimidating than standing up and stammering out sentences in front of a roomful of kids and your teacher.
But in addition to being more fun, and more comfortable, reading to dogs also turns out to have measurable results.
The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine teamed up with Tony La Russa of the All Ears Reading program, an organization that teams kids and animals at the Animal Rescue Foundation of Walnut Creek, Calif. Together they devised a study that followed children’s reading skills before and after a program of reading to rescue dogs over the course of several weeks, assessing improvement in both fluency and enjoyment levels. They found that third-graders in a public school improved their reading by 12% over the course of 10 weeks, while a second study with home-schooled students showed an improvement of 30% over the course of the same period. And, according to the UC Davis article about the study, “…75 percent of the parents reported that their children read aloud more frequently and with greater confidence after the study was completed.” A downloadable summary of the final report can be found here. And the UC Davis site has a charming video about the study.
Now, that’s something to wag your tail about! (Yes, I couldn’t resist.) We’re thinking about doing this kind of program at the bookstore. Have any of you booksellers or librarians tried it? We’d love to hear your stories!