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Therapy Dogs Help Young Students Learn To Read

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Teachers across the metro area have discovered an innovative way to teach young kids how to read better and with more confidence.

They are enlisting the help of Reading Education Assistance Dogs. Dogs that have received special training to sit patiently with children, as the kids read aloud.

At Zachary Lane Elementary School in Plymouth, first graders get weekly visits from Khloe, a very patient dog who likes to listen as students read books to her.

On this day, Khloe's buddy Rupert has stopped by as well.

Both dogs, and their handlers, are volunteers with a program called R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota.

Nancy Brooks is the manager of the program in the Twin Cities.

"The dog is never going to laugh at them and say 'Oh, you made a mistake.' My role then is to help the dog help the child with the reading," she said.

Brooks, and her therapy dog Franklin, have been visiting schools in the Twin Cities for more than a decade.

But outside of schools, these therapy dogs also can be found in public libraries.

"One of the survey questions from last year from one of the students in the program said he likes reading with Franklin because nobody else ever listens to him read. Isn't that kind of sad? He is good listener," she said.

The feedback from teachers and parents is that these interactions help increase the amount of time students spend reading, help improve their reading ability levels and help instill more confidence.

"So we are involving the dog and no matter how much the kid does or doesn't know, he knows more than the dog," she said.

So much so that there's a demand for more dogs and people trained to do this.

"It is a challenge to fill all those requests that come in. So, we would love to have more volunteers," she said.

Brooks said not all dogs are appropriate for this.

They need to be able to relax around children, sit still and listen. And they need to be able to go through training with their handlers.

R.E.A.D. Dog Minnesota has volunteers in schools and libraries across the seven-county metro area.

For more information about the program, visit R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota online.

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