It’s that time of year when charities bring out their best heartwarming stories, and I have to admit the ones that rescue pets always get my check. Call me a crazy cat lady, but I firmly believe that pets bring more benefits to society than we’ll ever realize.
ASBJ‘s research columnist, Susan Black, must have the same soft spot. In the December issue of ASBJ, she devotes her space to heartwarming stories about therapy animals–dogs and cats and other furry friends that even can help children learn to read. Yes, that’s rightthey help children learn to read.
“Therapy animals” are pets that are trained and certified by programs that “are proliferating across the country,” as more schools realize their success, Black writes. In most cases, they are the pets of volunteers or staff who have passed rigorous personality and demeanor tests and have undergone training to ensure they are suitable to work with children.
The concept for the reading programs is quite simple: students who have difficulties reading are placed with a therapy dog that “listens” as the child reads to it. What researchersincluding Blackhave witnessed is that children who are reluctant readers often blossom with a therapy dog.
While they may have been embarrassed or ashamed to read aloud in class, the dog tends to provide a calming effect that allows the child to practice their reading skills more successfully. Studies have found that children who read to dogs gain substantially more points on reading assessments and read at faster rates than struggling children who do not have such programs. The dogs are trained to sit there and listen, perhaps offer a paw for support.