Getting children to enjoy reading isn’t always easy, but maybe dogs could help?
Jill Steel, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, has been conducting a study about the influence of reading to dogs on children’s attitudes to reading. And her Labradoodle, Archie, has been on hand to help.
Give the Dog a Book
Last year, children in three Primary 5 classes in Scotland – the equivalent to the 3rd grade – read to Archie for four weeks. Steel tracked both their attitude toward reading and their well-being too.
According to Steel, it’s simple: “Reading to dogs involves a child or children sitting next to a fully assessed and registered dog, accompanied by a handler, and reading to it,” she says.
“Many children report they feel less anxious about reading to a dog than to a human, which increases their enjoyment and confidence in reading. The generally accepted rationale behind it is that the dog is a non-judgmental and comforting listener.”
Steel also said that each week the children couldn’t wait to read to Archie, with some of them even practicing extra reading just to prepare themselves for the next time they saw the pup.
Benefits of Reading to Dogs
While some people have criticized these sorts of initiatives as being gimmicky, a paper Steel published in 2021 featured the views of 253 teachers. Taking part in an online survey, a huge 84.2% of teachers thought that reading to dogs could reduce stress, while 60.9% thought that it improved the children’s skills and made them read more frequently too.
Not only that, but educators said that reading to dogs can help children to overcome fears, and better educate them on dogs and their welfare. Children with additional needs benefitted too.
While there might be challenges, with some teachers worried about finding the time to have the dogs in, or health and safety considerations, it looks as if these canine companions could really help children progress with their reading. Maybe the children taking part in Steel’s study will grow up to combine their loves for books and dogs and read one of these books?