What is Read With Me?
The Read With Me program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a therapy animal. But not just any animal. Read With Me teams are registered therapy animals that volunteer with their handler going to schools, libraries, and many other settings as reading companions for children.
Pet Partners launched their own reading program for therapy animal teams in September of 2016. Previously, Dogs on Call had partnered with R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), a program of Intermountain Therapy Animals since 1999.
How Does It Work?
Read With Me utilizes registered therapy animals that have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills, and temperament. When these animals come to hear children read, it’s fun and that makes all the difference!
But Why Dogs?
Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:
- Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure.
- Listen attentively.
- Do not laugh, judge, or criticize.
- Allow children to proceed at their own pace.
- Are less intimidating than peers.
When a Read With Me animal is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs. The handler is a skilled facilitator, too, shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the supervised reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material, and gain fluency as a reader.
The Results Are Significant
Participating kids make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. And there are bonus benefits – performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance and even personal hygiene.
To learn more about Read With Me, visit the Volunteer Center at www.petpartners.org.