How Therapy Dogs Help Children with Reading

by drlazarus on July 9, 2013

Did you know that dogs can help your child both improve their reading skills and learn to love reading in the process? If your child struggles with reading, consider tutoring with a terrier!

Just ask the kids at B.F. Kitchen Elementary School in Loveland; they’ve been reading to Copper, a golden retriever, since 2011, thanks to the school’s Reading Retriever program — and the results speak for themselves.

This specially trained dog works one-on-one with struggling young readers, providing a supportive, friendly reading buddy who never, ever judges a mispronounced word or run-on sentence. Kids say that having Copper around lifts their spirits, making them feel more confident and excited to read — and results from other schools, libraries and tutoring programs with therapy dogs back this up.

In fact, a study from Tufts University suggests that reading with dogs offers a host of academic, social, physiological and psychological benefits for children, such as:

  • Higher self-esteem and autonomy
  • Reduced stress and lower blood pressure
  • Increased language use
  • Improved social interactions
  • Longer, more sustained focus
  • Better attitude toward school and learning
  • Reduced loss of reading skill over summer vacation
  • Improved reading ability

Libraries, schools and even universities across the country are taking advantage of the benefits of therapy dogs. In Colorado, programs that incorporate reading and therapy dogs are growing more popular, with organizations such as Denver’s K9 Cares, Therapy Dogs of Boulder County, Denver Pet Partners, Have Paws Will Travel in Arapahoe County, Aurora’s Wagging Tales, and Paws to Read in Colorado Springs. Even reading to a family pet can help struggling readers to improve their skills and feel more confident.

Reading ability impacts all areas of academic achievement, so building your child’s confidence and skill is essential. Sometimes, a little extra help — from a therapy dog or a professional — can make all the difference. If you’re seeking a child psychologist in the Littleton area, Dr. Steven Lazarus — and his certified therapy dog Zeke — can help your family work through issues together.

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