Reading Goes to the Dogs

Should you read to your dogs? Maybe. That’s what a group of students in Hamilton, Montana, have been proving once a week when they troop down to their local animal shelter to spend some quality time reading to the canine inmates. From The Huffington Post:

Once a week, students from the Keystone to Discovery Enrichment program, a nonprofit summer and after-school project for behaviorally or academically at-risk youth, head to Bitter Root Humane Association to read to shelter animals that are waiting for adoption. The program not only gives the kids a chance to work on their reading skills, but also helps soothe the animals.

“The dogs really respond to the kids. It really helps to have somebody talk to them,” Bitter Root’s lead animal care attendant, Charlotte, told HuffPost. Charlotte chose not to disclose her last name.

As terrific as the program sounds, it’s not revolutionary. The powerful impact reading to pets can have — on both the reader and the readee — has been under study for some time. In fact, in 2010 Medical News Today reported that a study had recently been completed that proved that “reading to dogs helped children improve their fluency by up to 30 per cent. Many animal organizations and libraries in the US already have reading improvement schemes where they pair up children and dogs, but until now the evidence has been more anecdotal than research-based.”

Part of the Library Dogs program, this collie
seems to be paying close attention to the story.

A program called Library Dogs has put these thoughts into strong and successful action. From their web site:

Children reading storybooks to dogs — what could be cuter? But every day we’re learning there’s more than just cuteness when this happens. The smiles on a child’s face, the wagging tail of the dog, the excitement of doing something different (even forbidden in some public places) proves there’s anticipation when it comes to reading in this particular setting. And that’s what it’s all about. Youngsters of all ages are not only learning to read, they’re looking forward to it. They’re learning to love to read!

Meanwhile, back in Montana, Ria Overholt, the director of the program that brings student to the shelter reports that it isn’t just the kids who benefit. “We’ve seen that the sound of their voices is soothing for the dogs and cats.” Overholt said to the Ravalli Republic. “It is relaxing to the dogs to hear those calm and steady voices.”

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