Dogs do a lot to earn their title of “man’s best friend” — some serve on police forces, some search and some just make us feel better. Now, a new study indicates that dogs may also be great reading tutors for kids.
A paper published in the Early Childhood Education Journal reports that kids who read books aloud to their furry friends have better attitudes toward reading than kids who don’t. According to the research team at the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction that conducted the study, the reason is simple: Dogs aren’t a judgmental audience. Fido doesn’t care if you mispronounce a word or if you have to read the same sentence twice because you lost your place on the page. They’re just glad to hang out with you and listen to you as you learn.
The study’s authors told the website Inverse that more research was needed to determine whether the reading sessions had an impact on the children’s reading skills — not just their attitudes — because the reading skill scores did not change significantly for either group in the study. However, the researchers noted that more positive attitudes about reading can be a step toward improving reading skills.
KQED News reported earlier this year that educators are already taking note of the possible benefits of reading dogs in the classroom. Rebecca Barker Bridges, an educational therapist, adopted a golden retriever because she believed that a dog could help students feel more confident as they learn. Today, Stanley the Reading Dog visits classrooms and libraries — and has his own book to teach teachers and students how dogs can be special helpers in the classroom.
“Students feel self-conscious about reading because they’re afraid of being judged by students and teachers if they don’t do a ‘good job.’ But Stanley dismantles this fear for them. He makes learning joyful,” Bridges told KQED.