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  • Posted July 4, 2014 by

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    Australian dogs are helping kids improve reading skills


    Lake Macquarie, NSW is home to a peculiar program designed to help boost children’s confidence with reading; however, as peculiar as it may be, it seems to be working wonders.

    The program is called BaRK (Building Reading Confidence for Kids), and it’s run by the City Council, in libraries throughout Lake Macquarie. The goal is to use the dogs – trained therapy dogs from the Delta Society – to help dispel some of the pressure children feel when reading in front of other people.

    It appears that this psychological association is easing the tension and providing reading comprehension benefits at much earlier stages in children’s lives.

    In this eight-week program, a child is paired with a trained dog and will spend time reading aloud to their canine companion.

    As the Lake Macquarie Library website explains, “The dog allows children to gain confidence and self-esteem by providing his/her love and attention in an atmosphere free of criticism. The dogs in the BaRK program love to listen. Such an environment allows children to feel less self-conscious - dogs don’t worry if a child stutters or mispronounces a word”.

    For children who truly engage with this activity, the benefits can go above and beyond reading aloud and translate positively into general behavior and perspective. This is most helpful for timid children.

    These special dogs are also regular visitors to nursing homes, hospitals and prisons, and are even used as therapy for autistic children. Research derived from all of these interactions has been recently published in a book entitled Dogs that Make a Difference, which was released through Penguin Books Australia.

    It has long been known that animals are extremely therapeutic to people of all walks of life; from all parts of the world, from those with physical hindrances like blindness to those with psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

    If this new use of dogs to help children read takes off, we may have found one more use for man’s best friend. Hopefully the success of this program will inspire other countries to offer the same kind of therapy, so children everywhere can feel proud to read aloud.

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