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How reading to pets can boost kids’ confidence

August 14, 2015

If your child is struggling a little with reading or lacks the confidence to read aloud to you or others at school, have you considered having them read to the family pet?

Pets are non-judgmental and loving listeners. Kids often enjoy ‘looking after’ their pets in all sorts of ways and telling the family dog a story can be one of those ways. (And sometimes the family pet has more time to spend than parents do, too!)

There are several formal programs operating in Australia and around the world, offering children the chance to increase their literacy skills, self esteem and confidence by reading with animals. They include ‘Classroom Canines’, operated by The Delta Society and ‘Story Dogs’ (

Interacting with animals can help children relax and encourage them to try harder, as well as having fun. Kristi Purvis from Centaur Primary, which works with Story Dogs, says:

‘Students love the experience and do not really think that it is actually a learning task; just fun!’

When ABC News visited Montagu Bay Primary School in Tasmania to observe a ‘Classroom Canines’ trial, a young reader summed it up:

‘It was cool because they couldn’t say: “That’s not right, you’re a bad reader”‘ (Finn Di Ubaldo, 9)

dog_child_reading__large via motherpedia dot com dot auIn some programs, such as those Story Dogs run with Year 2 students, a trained support person sits with the child and dog and speaks “for” the dog, prompting the child to explain to the dog what is happening in the story or illustrations.

There are broader benefits, too. Lake Macquarie City Council in NSW uses Delta Society dogs in an 8-week program where kids have sessions of 15 minutes at a time after school hours. Library Section Manager, Joanne Smith, told that ‘The children who read to the dogs are not the only ones who benefit from the program. The dogs love the attention and the owners get satisfaction out of helping the children.’

And does it work with other animals? Definitely – in the U.S., the Animal Rescue League of Berks County and other animal shelters run programs where children can come in and read to cats and small animals in their adoption rooms. This benefits the children and also helps the animals become used to human interaction and be more socialised. The Berks County shelter site notes that ‘cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.’

Has your family been involved in any reading to animals schemes? Let us know about your experiences in comments.

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  1. Karen Seligman

    The Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Melbourne runs a reading dog program in their Diamond Valley and Rosanna branches. In fact, Lachlan, the reading dog at Diamond Valley, has been the mascot for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge since 2014!

    1. Better Reading Post author

      Thanks for letting us know, Karen! We just googled “Lachlan the reading dog” and enjoyed finding out more about this beautiful collie. The Lachlan-related activities on the Premier’s Reading Challenge site are terrific, too.

      1. Lachlan the reading dog

        Yes, I love the attention and the different stories the kids read to me. We now have a total of 6 dogs working at the YPRL libraries. I delegate of course.

        1. Better Reading Post author

          That’s fantastic, Lachlan! Keep up the great work and we hope you had a lovely National Dog Day yesterday.

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