Many children today have demonstrated a difficulty with not only the fundamentals of reading but the overall reading achievement itself. If this sounds like your child, I’m sure you have faced a considerable amount of time and frustration trying to help, teach, and motivate your child to read. Like most parents, you may have experienced that most of your efforts end in tears whether it be yours, your child’s, or both. So what do you do?
Do you have a dog or another furry friend at home?
If so, there may lie your answer. Numerous studies have been completed regarding the use of dogs, primarily, to help increase reading achievement. The idea behind this method is simple, take out the stressors.
Most students desperately want to please their parents and teachers along with avoiding embarrassment, especially in front of their peers. This can be observed even at the kindergarten level. Therefore, when reading is difficult and the teacher has to spend extra time with the child, he or she can feel bad and embarrassed by this. The stress of the other children watching, the desire to do it right the first time, and the overall frustration can easily lead to the child shutting down or having a melt down. These stressors and behaviors are comparable within the home environment as well.
How do you cope with stressors?
Simple, by utilizing the family pet. Typically, a pet will lay beside your child just appreciative for the attention. Fido won’t laugh at a mispronounced word or complain that “it’s taking too long.” This allows your child to make mistakes without the threat of disappointment and creates an ability to practice reading in its purest form, thus building confidence.
Moreover, studies have found that petting a dog or a cat will physiologically reduce stress within the body. This means your child will naturally pat the family pet, especially in more difficult reading sections, thus calming the sense of anxiety or stress. This, in turn, allows for greater endurance in tackling more difficult reading selections.
Does this mean as a parent you no longer have to help your child read? You can simply hand your child a book and say, “go read to the dog.” Not at all! Utilizing the family pet is just another tool for you to use. I recommend working with your child for 10-20 minutes on reading via sight word practice, paired reading, etc. Then allow your child to excuse themselves to a designated reading place, with their furry friend, for some quiet reading time. You know your child and when pet reading will work best. Try it out. You should see your child’s confidence and reading achievement grow. Good luck and happy reading!
Author: Kelly Dale, School Psychologist