Excepts from Thinking Mother’s Thursday, December 28, 2006 Post:
Children Reading Aloud To Dogs?
“I am sorry but I just don’t understand this concept of having young children read aloud to dogs as part of helping them learn to read.
Dogs can’t help a child by correcting any errors they may make, can they?
What benefit can this actually have?
(I refer to a program called R.E.A.D.(Reading Education Assistance Dogs)
Thinking Mother continues: ” If a family uses these appointments with the dogs, it is yet one more appointment in after-school time that the child would need to schedule and get to (another contributor to over-scheduling). Then again I guess if the parent is unwilling to do it then a dog is better than not reading for practice at all. Am I the only one that thinks having a child read aloud to a dog is weird or inferior?
And do parents not feel insulted that a dog is a better after-school teacher of reading for their children than they themselves are?
MY NAME IS ROXIE REPLIES: TO THINKING MOTHER’S POST: Children Reading Aloud To Dogs? —-Am I the only one that thinks having a child read aloud to a dog is weird or inferior?
I hope that Thinking Mother and all the disbelievers would give this concept another chance. Parents are very concerned about their children’s education and spend as much quality time with their children as they can. These parents probably do not have the extraordinary talent and patience that Thinking Mother who home schools her own children has. The children who take part in this program are usually reading below their grade level. There are numerous reasons why a child is having difficulties reading and to blame the parent is unfair. These parents who are taking advantage of the R.E.A.D. program aren’t abandoning their responsibilities; in fact they are showing how responsible they are by being their children’s advocate and went to the trouble to find this program and in some cases were responsible for bringing it into the school system or to their public libraries. Parents aren’t always the best people to teach their child to read. Parents and children have such a close bond that a child can pick up his parent’s disapproval without a parent saying one word. The R.E.A.D.(READING EDUCATION ASSISTANCE DOGS) program has become very widespread and currently there are hundreds of registered R.E.A.D. teams working throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, India, Japan and Singapore.
On first glance it does appear absurd. A dog doesn’t understand what the child or in some cases adult is reading to them and of course a dog can’t help in word pronunciations etc. The answer is in the name of the program: R.E.A.D.(READING EDUCATION ASSISTANCE DOGS).
The dog is the teacher/handler’s assistant and the dog’s handler acts as the surrogate teacher/parent. The dog assists the teacher by being the center of attention rather than the student. The student automatically will pet the dog and feel more relaxed. Studies at John Hopkins University and the University of Maryland show when children (whose blood pressure were monitored)were alone in a quiet room to read their blood pressure would instantly go up; when a dog was put in to wander around the room, their blood pressure quickly lowered. When your blood pressure normalizes, your anxiety levels are reduced and you perform better. The handler is a supportive, positive, uncritical listener and facilitates the student “help the dog understand” which the kids are eager to do. The student is more relaxed and is more receptive to learn . The handler works with comprehension, pronunciation, word definition etc.
Excerpt from the The R.E.A.D Program Frequently Asked Questions:
In the school setting, teachers or reading specialists are asked to select those children who would most benefit from the program, and a particular team reads with the same child each week, so that a more trusted and secure relationship evolves. This is AAT, or animal-assisted therapy, because specific goals are set for each child, documentation is kept, and progress is recorded. Sometimes this is done right after school; sometimes during the school day, but it involves privacy or semi-privacy so that the child can blossom without the criticism of his/her peers.
Often the handler will use projection, communicating through and for the animal, to teach concepts and to help overcome obstacles. This approach is more appealing to the child and more effective because s/he doesn’t feel targeted or pressured. For example, if a child reads a word but doesn’t know what it means, the handler might say, “Gee, I don’t think Rover has ever heard the word ‘interactive’ before-can you tell him what it means?” If he knows, great; if he doesn’t, they can get a dictionary together and learn the new word
and explain it to the dog. This is less direct and intimidating than, “Do you know what that word means?” a direct question which a child may shrink from.
Reading to an animal help raise a child’s self-esteem?
“One ten-year-old girl we met could hardly read at all-not even as well as an average first-grader. She gave the handler all kinds of reasons why she couldn’t and didn’t want to read to Meg, the dog. The handler reassured her that Meg wasn’t going to be bothered by any of those things, and so they sat down to read together. It was a real struggle for this girl, but she became very engrossed in the book and kept at it, with Meg listening beside her. It took her 45 minutes to read just one 32-page picture book with simple words, but when she turned over the to the last page she gasped in happy surprise, “Oh my gosh! I’m finished-I’ve never read a whole book before, ever in my life!” She got to go home that day with a singular accomplishment.
That’s the kind of experience that helps to build self-esteem-when someone accomplishes something important, conquers challenges, feels their skills increasing. The dogs can help support these things in situations where other people, even well-trained, very loving people-somehow can’t achieve that important break-through.”
A lot of the magic in this program revolves around letting the child focus on the dog. When s/he thinks s/he’s helping the dog understand the words and the story, the child gets the empowering feeling of being the helper and teacher-rather than having the whole experience focus on the child’s lack of skill. This critical shift in focus makes an incredible difference in the flow of the child’s learning processes. It’s much more fun to read with a friend who listens attentively, and who does not judge, than to read for your teacher, in front of your peers.
There are several videos demonstrating this program on My Name Is Roxie’s Family and Dog Issues: CHILDREN READING TO DOGS = R.E.A.D.(Reading Education Assistance Dogs)(Videos and Links)