Written by Ron Peltier
Dogs have been our loyal companions for over 10,000 years. They have also been important members of our community too, helping us in a number of ways. For example, service dogs happily assist us with a range of needs: helping the blind; alerting people before a seizure; opening and closing drawers; protecting our property; etc. Dogs also can be trained to assist soldiers, police, firefighters, search and rescue teams, and the list goes on. However, did you know that dogs are helping children read?
That’s exactly what Tales To Tails (T2T) coordinator and Literary Specialist Laura Bruni says is happening. The program is part of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society’s (HCWS) educational outreach, and it has been helping children read since 2006. Not only has that, the program has proven to be very successful too.
Bruni says, “In October we ran a program at the Adelson Educational Campus and each student improved one reading level within the 6 week period.” That is quite an improvement in less than two months. So, then, how does a dog help a child read, especially one who struggles with reading?
Bruni says the first thing is, “HCWS believes that animals provide a safe environment for children to improve their reading skills.”
A certified dog listens as the child reads his/her favorite story, and the dog listens without judgment. No puzzling looks or shakes of the head—just a patient dog, perhaps panting a little. According to one parent, an elementary teacher herself, reading to the certified dogs at T2T motivates her son to prepare for the reading by practicing the night before.
“It has really made an impact in his enthusiasm for reading. He really loves reading to the dog and practices in the mirror the night before,” she concludes. As any teacher knows, motivation is key in a child’s or anyone’s education. She encourages every parent to participate in the program and besides “kids love dogs.” And as Bruni further points out, T2T teaches “children how to be a responsible pet owner.” All of us who love animals understand the importance of responsible pet ownership.
The program works best for children between the ages of 5-12 years old. Currently T2T occurs monthly at Bogart’s Bone Appetit at the Southern Highlands location. Ultimately the goal is to expand the program, Bruni says. However while there may be enough children that would benefit from the program, Bruni says she needs both certified dogs that have passed a Canine Good Citizen course and their handlers.
“We are looking for other handlers who are either certified with their dog or are interested in going through training to get certified with their dog.” People who are interested should contact Bruni at email@example.com.
As Lisa, one of the regular handlers says, “It’s just so cute and inspirational watching the kids read to the dogs. They really like it.”
Tales to Tails is just one of the programs for children sponsored by HCWS. Read about our Angels for Animals Humane Education Program and Youth Group. You can help sponsor one of these important programs by clicking Here.