Reading to dogs may not have been part of your formal education, but it might be for your kids. That’s because a mounting body of research shows that it can potentially be an effective tool in improving reading skills.
As part of formal programs, some schools, libraries and homeschooling environments encourage children to read to a canine. The goal is to strengthen fluency and improve kids’ relationship to reading.
While the dogs in official programs receive training, you can also have your kids read to your pet at home. Even if they’re primarily known to be a cuddly connoisseur of dog treats, it’s possible they might be a good audience for reading, depending on their demeanor.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of reading to dogs for kids.
The Positive Effects of Dogs on Kids
In addition to being a calming presence for some new readers, there are many benefits for kids who grow up with dogs.
Household pets can help children develop empathy and build self-esteem. This may be due to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine (chemicals in the body associated with positive feelings) that people experience when interacting with animals.
Dogs can also help kids feel supported, which might be why some children enjoy reading to them.
Why Should Kids Read to Dogs?
Literacy is an important building block in a child’s education. Reading skills help them not just in language but in other areas like math as well. They also impact their level of achievement in school.*
Kids reading to dogs usually occurs as part of a canine-assisted read-aloud program. A handler brings a trained therapy dog into a school or library, and children practice reading aloud to them.
While research is limited, these programs are shown to have positive impacts on kids learning to read.
Reading to Dogs – 4 Potential Benefits
Whether you’re curious about a formal canine-assisted read-aloud program or want to incorporate your family pet into your child’s reading routine, here are four potential benefits for children who read to dogs.
1. Improves Reading Abilities
Reading to a dog may improve reading abilities, specifically reading fluency (the ability to read accurately and smoothly and quickly comprehend the content), according to a University of California (UC) study. This practice is shown to be particularly effective among home-schooled students. If you educate your kids at home or they participate in remote learning, this may be a helpful addition to reading lessons.
2. Makes Kids More Comfortable
For some children, reading to a canine can be a pressure-free experience. This is likely because dogs offer a comforting, non-judgmental presence. Students reported feeling more relaxed about reading after experiencing reading to a dog.*
3. Improves Sentiments Towards Reading
In one study, children in a reading-to-dogs program showed improved attitudes towards reading, particularly academic reading. Enjoying the experience of reading is important, as it can be key to determining a child’s educational success.*
4. Helps Build Self-Confidence
Reading to a dog can improve a child’s self-confidence, especially at school. UC research shows kids felt more comfortable participating in class after their time in a canine-assisted read-aloud program.
How to Get Kids Reading to Dogs
If you want to explore the benefits of reading to dogs at home with your kids, you don’t need a lesson plan to get started.
During controlled studies in classrooms, kids weren’t required to follow rules for reading; they simply had to read the words on the page out loud in the presence of a canine.
It will likely help if your pet has been socialized and they can be calm around your child. This can eliminate distractions.
Do Dogs Like to be Read To?
While there haven’t yet been any studies done on whether dogs like being read to, anecdotal reports suggest that they do, explains Annie Valuska, PhD, Purina Pet Behavior Scientist.
It helps kids practice reading, builds empathy for pets and socializes our furry friends. There’s no reason not to try it out with your own pet.
*Fung, S. (2019). Effect of a Canine-Assisted Read Aloud Intervention on Reading Ability and Physiological Response: A Pilot Study. Animals, 9(8), 474.