Therapy dogs used to help children to read

Image and video - @Haruki on Instagram

A PIONEERING programme which takes dogs into schools to help children learn to read is now available in Spain.

The R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programme, started in the US in 1999, consists of children reading to dogs, which have been specially trained, and this has been proven to not only help their reading skills but also improve their self esteem.

The dogs can be of any breed and any size but it’s not an easy job: around 40 per cent fail the course to be reading dogs.

The courses are being used to help autistic children to read and improve their social skills, although the formula of dog and child can be applied universally.

Elena Dominguez, owner of Bea – one of the reading dogs in Madrid, explains that the format for most lessons is for the child and dog to sit together on a blanket on the floor and then one of them, not always the child, will choose a book to be read out loud by the child with each reading session lasting no more than 20 minutes.

Elena explains that the dog is never obliged to work – if they are having a bad day or they have an upset stomach or, for whatever reason, they don’t want to work that day then they don’t have to. “The will to work must come from the dog and although it has never happened, they do have the option of not working on any given day” added Elena.

At the moment there are only three of these dogs in Spain but more are expected to join the programme as and when they complete the training course.



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