How dogs help with reading skills

Remember learning to read as a kid? It can be a scary process. But what if you add a big furry pooch into the mix? Sounds a little less daunting, right?

Two researchers from Brock University are studying how reading with a canine companion aids the learning process.

Every week, Shayden spends an hour reading to Molly. Molly has been part of the program for three years, and even she can tell the difference in her buddy’s reading skills.

Volunteer Corrine McKernine explains Shayden’s development. “He’s sounding words out and he’s trying new things that he never would have tried last year.”

It’s a big change from choosing the same book every week.

Shayden isn’t the only student to show improved enjoyment and reading ability.

The principal of St David’s public school, Tammy Chilcott, talks about the benefits from the ‘Tell Tales’ dog buddy program. “It’s been a wonderful privilege to have them come in. We really believe that it’s boosted student’s self esteem and it’s been really good for reading confidence.”

The program came to St David’s in Niagara three years ago.

Tina Hill founded Therapy Tails Ontario. “The dogs aren’t going to tell you that it’s wrong, the dogs don’t care if you lisp, the dogs don’t care if you speak in German. The dogs just want to be loved and just want to be with you.”

Brock University researchers Christine Tardif-Williams and Sandra Bosacki are studying its success. Bosacki says “without that fear, they’re able to learn.”

They’re analyzing changes in students’ empathy and social skills…

Tardif-Williams: “They’re developing a bond with their particular companion animal.”

…to see if the success of “tell tales” can be applied in schools across the country.

Bosacki says “they should be in the classroom with all children.”

And while their research is still in its early stages, ask any of the reading buddies at St David’s, and they’ll tell you the program is working.

“It’s fun reading to them, and they’re really cuddly.”


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