Children who Read Aloud to Dogs Show Literacy

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Is your child having trouble learning to read? Looking for help improving progress in learning literacy skills? If you have a relatively quiet family dog, you may have all the help you need, according to a team of Canadian researchers led by Corinne Syrnyk of the psychology department at Saint Mary’s University in Calgary.

Limited Reading Ability is Widespread

Reading is a vital skill. Regardless of the methods available to teach them, most children learn to read. However, unless they receive some supportive help, data shows that more than one in five children will not be able to master this important task properly. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 32 percent of fourth graders and 24 percent of eighth graders are not reading at the basic level.

There is an optimal window of time to teach reading skills. According to the Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching, if a child is a poor reader by the end of first grade, there is a 90 percent chance that he or she will remain a poor reader by the time he reaches the lower grade without any additional help. they finished the fourth grade. Children who are not reading at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Reading Aloud

A literacy exercise in a typical elementary school classroom involves children reading aloud. Poor readers are painfully exposed at this point. Children who struggle to read often stop and start, mispronounce some words, skip others completely, and sometimes just stop when they can’t say a word.

As other children and people around them watch and judge, poor readers feel embarrassed because they struggle with a skill that their classmates pick up easily. The first damage is self-esteem, and the second, and perhaps more important, is their motivation to study. It is well established that increasing motivation to read has a positive effect on children’s reading performance and literacy in general. Here, dogs are a useful aid in teaching reading.

Dog Reading Assistants

The origins of canine-assisted literacy interventions are often attributed to the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program launched in 1999. Intermountain Therapy Animals, although there have been several previous studies demonstrating the usefulness of dogs in helping elementary school-level readers.

The learning process is really simple. The child chooses a book at their current proficiency level and sits and reads it aloud to the dog. The dog provides a non-judgmental and socially supportive presence, and by being close to and attentive to the child, the dog provides positive reinforcement that improves both self-esteem and motivation in the child.

To test the effect of reading to a dog

A recent study attempted to compare children’s progress in oral reading and reading comprehension under two conditions, a child reading to an adult versus a child reading to a dog. The children were 7–8 years old and each received both types of intervention between adults and dogs in random order. The supportive program did not require much time, with sessions of approximately 15 minutes once a week over an eight-week period.

The adult intervention was led by a school volunteer trained in literacy support. Canine Intervention recruited an unpaid volunteer from a nonprofit group that provides therapy dogs. The job of these therapy dogs is to interact with different types of people, usually in different places like schools and hospitals. Generally, these types of therapy dogs are chosen for their calm and friendly personalities.

The procedure was simple. While reading to the adults, the child sat next to them, and if they needed encouragement or support during the session, the adults responded by teaching them to use a particular strategy, helping with unfamiliar words, or encouraging them to continue. The dog condition used the same procedure with one difference, the child read to the dog rather than to the adult. The dog’s caretaker was also there and helped the student, as the child only does when reading books to adults.

A number of measures were taken to assess children’s progress and responses to this additional supportive training. At the end of each session, the children were asked how they felt, and it was clear that they responded positively to both conditions, although they seemed more enthusiastic and more enthusiastic when reading to the dogs. For example, one child commented, “I like reading to dogs because they are great listeners.” At the social and motivational level, reports based on teacher and parent observations showed no loss of self-esteem, no embarrassment about reading aloud, and no reduction in motivation to read.

Do dogs really help children learn to read?

Because of the many different measures used in this study and the fact that all participating students experienced both types of intervention, a large number of statistical analyzes were required to elucidate the details of what occurred. However, the research team was able to provide a brief summary of their key findings.

“We found that while reading improved in both conditions, dog-assisted reading support produced greater gains than adult-assisted intervention in both oral reading and reading comprehension scores.”

The results of this study show that if your child is struggling to read, one way you can help as a parent is to hold your child’s favorite book first. Then suggest to them that the family dog ​​might enjoy hearing it too. Then have the child read it aloud to the dog in short sessions while you sit nearby and offer non-judgmental support (just like your dog).

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or republished without permission.

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