Paws for Reading at E.P. Foster Library
For the past seven years we have had help from furry, four legged friends with reading. Yes, you read right, furry, four legged friends.
On just about every Saturday, you can find certified therapy dogs sitting in the library listening to the most interesting stories. School age children come in and can read in a calm, non-pressure environment. Dogs don’t criticize or correct their pronunciation. Doggie “Moms” sit with the dogs and children to give a hand with complex words and encourage timid kids. Paws for Reading is not a tutoring program but a program that encourages children to improve their reading skills and helps to build their self esteem.
As part of their mission statement, Paws for Reading aims to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered Service teams as literacy advocates. Literacy specialists acknowledge that children reading below their peers in reading skills are often intimidated by reading aloud in a group, frequently have lower self esteem and typically view reading as a chore.
A study at UC Davis (Feb 2010) showed that kids in reading dog programs increase their reading skills by 12% to 20% over kids not in a reading dog program. Because our volunteers are certified as therapy dog teams, they can also visit hospitals, nursing homes and other locations.
Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:
• Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
• Listen attentively
• Do not judge, laugh, or criticize
• Allow children to proceed at their own pace
• Are less intimidating than peers
When a dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs. The handler is a skilled facilitator, too – shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material, and gain fluency as a reader. Can dogs help kids learn to read better? It seems they can and help turn reading from a chore to fun.
The E.P. Foster Paws for Reading program has also been the beneficiary of a generous grant from Sage Publications that has provided not only dog treats for the hard work the dogs do but also enables us to give a free book to each child participating in our program.
If you are interested in signing up to read to one of our Paws for Reading dogs, call Star Soto at 648-2716.