Did you know that reading has gone to the dogs? Well, it has! In many places, dogs* and their handlers visit schools and libraries and other places to encourage children to read. These programs give the children a safe and fun place to read out loud - the dogs don't care if the reader stumbles or stutters or takes a long time to sound out a word, and they will never ever correct their pronunciation**. It's all about the opportunity to read aloud in a judgement-free environment and, most of all, having fun reading.
"Research has shown that these programs are particularly helpful for reluctant readers. They tend to be much more comfortable reading to dogs because there’s no stress and no judgment. And parents have reported that children participating in the program turn to reading more at home, show a greater willingness to read aloud at school, and are more disposed to venturing into increasingly difficult reading materials." ~Jefferson County Public Libraries
Mia Mutt and Lu C. Fur are our dogs, and they take us to the Jefferson County (Jeffco) Public Libraries two to three times a month to participate in the PAWS for Reading program. It's wonderful to see the smiles and excitement when the children see the dogs and then rush to pick out the book(s) they want to read that day. It's even more heartwarming to see an initially reluctant child eventually melt against the dog and talk to them as they page through a book, soon forgetting that the handler is even there.
* While dogs are the animals selected for the Jeffco PAWS for Reading program, many different animals can participate in other animal-assisted activities -- dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, pigs, ponies, horses, the list goes on!
** Handlers will help with words and pronunciation if the child requests such assistance. Otherwise, we're only there to support our dog and encourage the child.