Three Ways Children Benefit from Reading with Pets

Junior League logoThree Ways Children Benefit from Reading with Pets

A four-legged resource to improve your child’s enjoyment of reading could be as close as the end of your leash. Across America, children are experiencing the benefits of reading to dogs, and improvement can be seen after a few months of reading aloud for just 20 minutes a week.


Children who read aloud to a dog may benefit in three ways:


1. Build Reading Confidence – Children may find it intimidating to read in front of classmates or parents. Teachers quoted in an article titled ‘Man’s Best Friend as a Reading Facilitator’ published in ‘The Reading Teacher’ said that students gained confidence in reading aloud and using reading strategies after a few months of reading aloud to a dog;


2. Experience Reading Aloud Without Fear of Judgment – A dog’s nonjudgmental presence can provide reassurance and comfort to a child nervous about making mistakes while reading; and


3. Practice Reading Aloud Skills – Reading to a dog is great practice for children who are embarrassed by public speaking or unsure of their reading skills.


Local Reading Events with Dogs


The Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society ‘Save A Bull’ program brings certified pit bull therapy dogs to the Troy Library for reading time. The dogs spend an hour or so at the library and are accompanied by a volunteer who reads children’s books to the eager crowd.


According to Brad Shear, Executive Director of the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society, “kids are more likely to pay attention because of the presence of the dog and the dogs have a calming effect on the kids. The presence of the dog helps children who have had bad experiences or are afraid.  At the beginning, a lot of children won’t come near the dogs and by the end they are sitting and snuggling with them. It is also our experience that kids who are uncomfortable reading out loud will read to dogs because they know the dog won’t judge them.”


The Troy Public library also holds reading time with ‘Bubba The Reading Retriever.’ According to their website, upcoming dates include February 8, March 3, April 5, May 3 and June 6. Visit for more information.


Tips for Parents


According to the ‘The Reading Teacher’ article, a Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) handler uses the dog to start a dialogue with the children about the story being read. Possible questions include:


* Can you tell (dog’s name) what that word means?


* (Dog’s name) would like to hear the story again, in your own words.


* (Dog’s name) wonders what is going to happen next – what do you think?


* What do you think was (dog’s name) favorite part of the story?


Asking questions like these when your children read to the family dog will deepen their understanding of the stories they read. Children should aim to read for at least 20 minutes every day, and reading with a dog can be a fun way to encourage family reading.


If your family tries reading with a dog, please share your experiences and photos with us by emailing Find out more about the R.E.A.D. program at

Find photos of local children reading to dogs and volunteer opportunities in Troy, NY at our Facebook page:

Heather Silvernail is a literacy specialist and a volunteer with the Junior League of Troy. Kathleen Lisson is a trained basic literacy tutor and volunteer with the Junior League of Troy.

This article was printed in the Febuary 7, 2014 edition of the Albany Times Union under the title ‘A New Twist in Tale of Best Friends.’ Read the article here:


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