Can dogs read? Unfortunately, no. But they can help kids read.
For kids around the country who are struggling with their reading and communication skills, dogs can actually help ease the learning curve by creating a comfortable, pressure-free environment.
Pretty neat, right?
It’s all part of a program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D.
R.E.A.D. started 17 years ago in Salt Lake City as a way to connect with kids who spoke other languages and had trouble reading. The idea for therapy dogs had already been established, but it hadn’t been used in this type of learning environment.
“It was just an idea that popped into one of our board members’ head,” said Kathy Klotz, executive director of the R.E.A.D. program. “The benefits that we see when animals get with children in therapeutic settings like in hospitals, we thought, ‘Wouldnt that have the same effect on kids who are trying to learn how to read?’ It was one of those lightbulb concepts!”
R.E.A.D. looks for special dogs that seem to have an innate desire to want to make people feel good on a regular basis.
They also need their owner to be on board, of course. After all, they’re the ones who have to volunteer. From there, the owner and dog duo go through months of training to make sure they possess the skills and temperament needed to be able engage with any child week after week.
R.E.A.D. has a very specific program that it follows. And perhaps the most important detail is that the child needs to be alone with the therapy dog and owner for the session to be successful. Once they get started, the owner simply facilitates as the therapy dog listens to the child reading.