Dogs teaching kids how to read

The Artdog Images of Interest

My Images of Interest this month spotlight creative and unconventional approaches to teaching that have been gaining traction in schools, libraries, and other places devoted to teaching–including our own homes, if we share them with children.

Literacy dogs:

By now, the science is pretty well settled: reading to a calm, accepting dog (or other animal) really does help children learn to read better. Here’s a video that covers most of the important things about kids reading to dogs.

My first video is about therapy dogs of R.E.A.D., Reading Education Assistance Dogs, from Intermountian Therapy Animals, an organization started in Salt Lake City, UT in 1999. It’s a group I’ve blogged about before.

But now for a little something different: how about a dog who inspires children to read–by reading, himself?

Meet Fernie, whose owner Nik Gardner (headmaster of the school where Fernie works) chose him for his temperament, and taught him not only to be a literacy-support therapy dog, but to respond without verbal cues to commands that are printed on flash cards. He’d learned to read four different commands (“Sit,” “Down,” “Roll Over,” and “Spin”) when they were featured in The Telegraph in February 2016, but Gardner vowed then to teach him more.

Regular readers of this blog will remember I’ve featured literacy dogs before. Just sayin’–they do their work well. You’ll probably see them featured here again!

IMAGES AND VIDEOS: Many thanks to VOA for the video and photo of the R.E.A.D. program in the New York City Public Schools. Thanks also to The Telegraph, and to SWNS TV, photographer David Hedges and YouTube for the information, video, and photo of Nik Gardner with Fernie.

A “pawsitive” difference for Hospice patients

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

This week’s “making a positive difference” (perhaps I should say a “Pawsitive” difference) Image of Interest is drawn from a video. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while has undoubtedly picked up on my love and respect for service animals of all types, but this week’s image is important to me for several reasons.

First, I have a family member whose certified Emotional Support dog has recently become a crucial part of winning her battle with addiction. Second, this week has been especially tough for several of my friends as a mutual acquaintance has gone into Hospice care for the final stage of her life.

I have long been an advocate of animal therapy for a variety of situations. this includes supporting children’s reading with dogs, therapy animals in hospitals and hospice settings, and service animals that assist the disabled, or help those with health issues (diabetes and seizure disorders to name just two) stay on top of their conditions.

Does your pet have the makings of a good therapy animal? Purebred or rescue, critters with the right temperament can make an incredible difference. I hope you’ll find inspiration in this video, which features the work of several different therapy dogs, including Lanie, who’s featured in our photo above.

IMAGE and VIDEO: Both the still photo and the video about San Diego Hospice therapy dog program demonstrate their well-deserved reputation as a “pioneering organization in end-of-life care.” Unfortunately, this program closed in 2016. I’ve chosen to post the images anyway, because they still demonstrate some of the best positive aspects of therapy animal work.

Canine reading tutors

This week’s Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Today’s images show an increasingly frequent literacy strategy for helping children learn to read with greater fluency and confidence: using reading therapy dogs. 

As you’ll see if you take time to watch this video, reading to dogs can help children with difficulties grow into stronger readers–but also gain confidence, and improve in all sorts of other areas you might not expect, from better math skills to improved hygiene!

Are the dogs magic? No, it’s just a natural outcome. People have taken comfort and strength–not just help, food and utility–from animals.

The first recorded use of animals for therapy that I’ve been able to track down was a program for disabled people to work with farm animals in Geel, Belgium in the 9th century (yes, during the Dark Ages), but they must’ve gotten the idea from somewhere–namely, the millennia-long history of interactions between humans and the other animal species they encountered, lived and worked with.

Side note: there’s still an active focus on community-based psychiatric care in Geel today, based on its very old tradition.

During August, I celebrated the traditional back-to-school season with a return to the “roots” of this blog (which used to be called Artdog Educator) and a focus on education, which has been well received. I thought the photos and video of dogs at work to help children read was an appropriate way to close out this theme (for the moment) and segue into my September “Creative Approaches to Work” series.

Keep checking back, for more working dogs in September.

IMAGES: Many thanks to FirstBook’s article Sit, Stay, Read about a program in the Chicago Schools, for the photo of the girl reading to the dog in her classroom, and to the Stamford Advocate, for the photo of two girls on a couch in Stamford, CT reading to a dog, and article about a local literacy program that uses dogs in schools. Thanks also to YouTube and Intermountain Therapy Animals of Salt Lake City, UT, for the video about their Reading Education Assistance Dogs.