Reading with dogs

Reading with a dog present helps to improve children’s reading and communication skills. It teaches them to love books and reading by having them read to an animal.
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What: Reading with dogs
Description: Children read to dogs to improve reading comprehension and enjoyment of books
Training: At minimum, must have the CGC or equivalent. Some place require certification as a therapy dog.
Time until ready: Upon completion of required certification; days or months, depending on required certification.
Age to start: Any age. However this is better suited to dogs that can sit still for longer so it would be harder with a puppy.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Gloria Laube of Library Dogs. She gave us some insight into this wonderful program.

Why is reading to dogs important?

It’s been shown that reading to a dog helps shy children become more confident, autistic children calm down, sad children smile, and even the ones not at the top of the class feel special.

How does it help people?

Dogs and other therapy animals (cats, llamas, ponies, etc.) help people relax. They are nonjudgmental, won’t laugh at a mispronounced word or a slow reader.

How does someone get started?

If your dog already has mastered basic obedience skills (come, sit, stay, heel, lie down), she can probably pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Although not required, it is very good preparation for any testing she will undergo to become a registered therapy dog. Local obedience training groups and the humane society often offer preparation classes to help toward passing the CGC test, and some offer the official test.

In order to volunteer at a school or a library, your dog should be a registered therapy dog. Some, if not all, therapy organizations provide a $1 million insurance policy while your dog is volunteering and that is certainly a reassurance regarding safety concerns and the reliability of your dog for the staff where you visit. There are numerous organizations such as Therapy Dogs Inc., Love on a Leash, Pet Partners, Bright and Beautiful, and you should be able to find one near you.

Are there any special requirements or certifications?

For R.E.A.D., a dog has to be a registered therapy dog, which also means annual physical evaluations by a licensed veterinarian. The requirements for therapy work vary slightly among different reputable organizations, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Love on a Leash.

What is your personal involvement?

Sunny and I began visiting the La Mesa Library monthly in 2005, and also later visited 3 different schools on a weekly basis. The 3 schools were in different years, but we also visited one school twice a year and another school where the teacher was a friend of ours.

How and why did you get started?

I’d been thinking of taking Sunny to a local bookstore to see if they’d let me visit with him. About that time, a friend who had therapy dogs received a postcard in the mail about Reading Education Assistance Dogs. This was new to me, children reading to dogs—not me reading to the children with a dog by my side. I looked into it and joined almost immediately.

I like volunteering and have done so in various positions most of my life. It’s especially nice when my dog can be with me, so R.E.A.D. was extra special.

What are the various organizations that provide this service?

I believe some of the various therapy organizations have similar programs.. I don’t know what their requirements are. R.E.A.D. began in 1999 and was the first such organization to develop this idea of improving children’s communication and literacy skills using therapy animals. It has expanded through the United States and many other countries around the world.

The American Kennel Club has a list of Therapy organizations. Many of these offer programs for children to read to/with dogs.

Here are just some of the organizations that provide this type of program:

ITA Intermountain Therapy Animals All Breeds
RWR Reading with Rover All Breeds
HPI Helping Paws International All Breeds
SSR Sit Stay Read All Breeds

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