Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) designed to improve children’s literacy through the reading of books to a dog. The program has demonstrated that:
- students who continuously read to the animals often show improvement in reading, communication, and comprehension skills.
- a child’s self-esteem and social skills can also improve.
- as a student reads to an animal, the student pets the dog and relaxes, causing oxytocin within the brain to flow. The fluency needed to read aloud occurs more easily.
- a child’s confidence in reading aloud to a nonjudgmental listener (in this case, a dog) often transfers to other arenas such as public speaking or reading enjoyment.
R.E.A.D. dogs must be registered therapy animals that volunteer in libraries and schools with their handler. The therapy animal approval process tests the health and temperament of the dog to ensure he/she is safe to interact with children.
Does this program seem like something you would like to pursue with your pet? First, you’ll want to consider if your pet is suited to the task. A good therapy animal is calm and can deal with unexpected happenings like loud noises. He/she will need solid obedience skills as well. In addition, your dog will need to be able to be in a room with many students and be around other animals. Ongoing commitments include continued training and regular grooming.
As for your part in the R.E.A.D. team, it is essential that you are professional, enjoy being around children, love reading, and are willing to make a time commitment to a library or school.
Becoming part of a R.E.A.D. team is a wonderful way to help the students in your community. R.E.A.D. also accepts donations; these are a great way to honor a beloved pet or friend. Donations are used to offset the cost of R.E.A.D. events.
Thank you for your interest in this program! You may wish to check out your local libraries and schools to see if any R.E.A.D. dogs already make visits. Some programs have names like, “Paws to Read” or “Waggin’ Tails.” Look for specifics on your library’s website!
Written by Connie Priesz with R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota.