There are lots of ways that dogs help people. They see for people with vision problems, they hear for those who can't and they help those who are unable to move around on their own by performing many useful tasks. But do dogs help us read? The answer is yes.
There are several organizations that use dogs to help children learn to read.
One of the organizations is R.E.A.D. Reading Education Assistance Dogs.
It is designed to improve childrens' reading and communication skills by having the children read to a dog.
The idea is that dogs are non-judgmental don't criticize and don't laugh if you make a mistake. Besides, it's fun to read to a dog. Have you tried it?
The program was started in 1999 by Sandi Martin and her Portuguese Water Dog, Olivia (You knew I had to slip that in there), and was the first such program in the country.
R.E.A.D. was so successful that there are now other similar programs all across the country. Reading With Rover is one that began on the west coast.
Handlers take their dogs into schools, libraries, pediatric clinic waiting rooms,after school latch-key programs, hospitals, detention centers and boys and girls clubs. They are also useful in programs where children are learning English as a second language.
The handler sits with the child and dog to assist and assess how well the child comprehends what he or she is reading. This is done by asking the child to explain to the dog what was read.
The results of these programs have been positive. The children become more self confident, they show more interest in reading on their own for fun, reading scores improve and hygiene improves. All in all the children demonstrate higher self esteem.
Reading therapy dogs must meet certain qualifications. They must be registered therapy dogs. You can begin by attending a basic obedience course with your dog. The next step is passing the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test which was discussed on an earlier Dogs-N-More post. Then contact either Delta Society or Therapy Dogs International for specific directions on becoming a registered therapy dog. They will assist you in finding an instructor in your locale.
Once you and your canine partner have fulfilled the requirements, there are many possibilities open to you for making a difference in the lives of others. Most therapy teams find their work not only rewarding, but a lot of fun. What a great way to spend quality time with your dog.