Animals Help Children Read
Roo, a 6-year-old collie certified by Intermountain Therapy Animals as a therapy dog for visits to nursing home residents and hospital patients, works primarily with his handler, Tina Anderson, as a reading education assistance dog (R.E.A.D.) at Graytown Elementary School, in Graytown, Ohio.
Children with trouble reading, a learning disability or shyness, or that just feel intimidated by reading in front of a class, like to read with Roo. “It’s a special connection that makes them feel important,” says Anderson.
“Dogs have been successful in having a calming effect on adults. Why not use them with children who have reading and social disabilities?” queries Lesley Pulsipher, national R.E.A.D. coordinator, in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Animals are not judgmental, and children feel safe reading to them. In a classroom, a child’s classmates may laugh at them if they mess up.”
According to Pulsipher, the program is not just limited to dogs; carefully vetted cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and miniature horses also visit schools and libraries to help foster reading. She observes that, “The program really helps bring kids out of their shell and gives them a boost of self-confidence.”