In today’s world, literacy is an essential life skill. Did you know that dogs are being specially trained to help children learn how to read?
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) programme operates in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and aims to improve reading and communication skills by allowing children to read to a dog. Dogs are non judgmental companions who allow the children to read aloud and gain self esteem, while practising their reading skills.
R.E.A.D. dogs are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their owner/handlers and they visit schools and libraries and other venues. In tracking the effectiveness of the programme, schools are asked to report back on reading test scores of the children involved. Libraries schedule the R.E.A.D. visits as special events, and watch the children flock in to participate. Attendance numbers are also tracked.
R.E.A.D. chapters have various requirements for dogs and their handlers. All dogs must achieve therapy dog qualifications which test their obedience, temperament, and sociability. Most dog handlers are required to attend training courses and this is augmented by on-the-job mentoring and coaching.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand