The therapeutic benefits of owning or stroking pets, and looking after animals, have been regularly documented.
Among the things we are more familiar with like Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs, or riding for the disabled which have enabled people to participate in activities that might not have been possible without, visiting pets are increasingly being used to boost the return to health in hospitals, for example, or in homes for the elderly.
There are also schemes which aim to provide personal help for people with anxiety or other mental health issues, and to encourage people to become more active.
It also become apparent that all sorts of connections with all sorts of animals and insects can have therapeutic benefits as shown by this article.
But a newer initiative that you might not have heard of is the use of our canine friends as reading assistant dogs to increase skill and confidence with reading among youngsters.
This has shown to be so successful that some schools are inviting dogs into the classroom to do just that.
The Kennel Club have started up an initiative called the Bark And Read Foundation to promote the work of charities who take dogs into schools to help with reading.
Reading to a dog gives the children the confidence to read out loud, thus developing their skills with literacy and language. Whereas they might feel awkward, shy or embarrassed as they stumble over words or struggle to read out loud to another adult, they gain confidence when reading to a dog that will not criticise, or judge their ability. The presence of the dog also has a calming effect which enables the children to concentrate and learn more happily and with confidence.
Having a pet around when reading is obviously not just exclusive to schools. Any family with a pet in their household can clearly take advantage of the same benefits. Not forgetting that it doesn’t have to be a dog to provide a calming or confidence boosting element to reading, learning, or any homework, other pets can have the same beneficial effect.
Whereas you might have thought the children were using the presence of a pet as a happy distraction from engaging with their work or their reading, it seems that it might instead provide an advantage. It’s worth talking about with them; would certainly be interesting to explore their point of view and discover whether they feel it helps them or not.
So if your child is reluctant to read maybe your pet can help!