Science Says Reading Aloud to Dogs Can Help Kids Struggling with Literacy

children learning to read by reading with pets hero

What do wildly popular children’s book author Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants, Dog Man) and researchers at UC Davis’s School of Veterinary Medicine have in common? Both strongly believe that when children read aloud to dogs, their literacy skills skyrocket.

Whether those fluffy listeners are the family pet or a school- or library-visiting volunteer provided by organizations like Paws to Read, the act of reading to a dog demonstrably reduces much of the anxiety kids feel when sounding out words for an audience. (No one who eats garbage and licks her own tush will judge you for confusing “can” with “car.” Nor will she give you a grade.)

These adorable study sessions have also been shown to help kids develop focus and concentration, cultivate a positive attitude toward school and expand their vocabulary and fluency by as much as 30 percent.

In the UC Davis study, a group of kids visited rescue dogs once a week for ten weeks, reading aloud to them for just 15 to 20 minutes each time. Seventy-five percent of their parents reported a dramatic increase in their child’s reading frequency and confidence.  

Even in a stressful classroom setting, second graders who read aloud to visiting dogs were significantly more motivated and happier about reading than classmates who followed a standard curriculum, according to a similar study out of Tufts.

Forget “The dog ate my homework.” It’s more likely she helped you with it.  

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