I did extensive research for Talent Hounds, Kids’ Pet Club and Dogs Make A Difference, and I saw scientific evidence of the physical and emotional benfits of looking at and interacting with dogs, especially during times of stress. They can cause a drop in anxiety and make us feel good so it makes sense to me that reading to virtual dogs could help children during the current crisis.
Therapy Dog Reading Programs
One area that Therapy Dogs have been particularly successful making a difference in the lives of children over the last few years is the in the many reading programs at schools and libraries across Canada and the US. Trained dogs have been lending their ears to thousands of children who need extra help with reading each week. We are big fans of these reading programs under normal circumstances and have filmed with many therapy dogs including Gizmo, Therapy Pugs, Bocker, COPE, READ and more.
Many children struggle with reading at different stages of their learning. They may have difficulty processing or with focus (as my daughter did when she was younger), or reading out loud to parents or in front of a group of peers. A therapy dog is not only cute and fun to read to, it is non-judgmental. No pressure. No embarrassment. No humiliation. The child is the one in control as these dogs can’t read so they don’t notice mistakes but usually enjoy the attention. Children often feel they are teaching or helping the dogs and in many cases they really are, like at the Toronto Humane Society where kids read to rescues.
Reading with a dog has been shown to help improve a child’s confidence, sef-esteem, focus and desire to read. Teachers and parents have noted that there is a significant increase in the reading abilities of a child that has participated in a reading program.
How to Cope Reading at Home – with Virtual Dogs
With the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, people are being asked to stay in their homes and self-isolate. In-person events and face-to-face meetings have been cancelled , people are thinking about digital opportunities in the name of social distancing.
DoveLewis’ therapy dogs Sherbet, Limerick and Marvin are still helping young readers build their skills with Facebook live sessions.
I was wondering how kids and parents or caregivers are coping at home without the usual support. It must be so stressful for so many, juggling working from home and schooling at home with young kids. The kids must miss their friends and teachers, and some must really miss the interaction with their reading buddies. Plus I know I would be feeling really frustrated and overwhelmed if my kids were still in elementary school. Tutoring my kids, even just after school, was never easy for me.
People are thinking about digital opportunities to maintain social distancing. I just heard that several groups of innovative therapy dog teams are doing ZOOM calls and streaming live sessions with kids.
DoveLewis’ therapy dogs including Cashew, Roger, Jones, Sherbet, Limerick, Dolly, Farrah, Liberty, Lisa, Kiev, Kashi, Misha and Marvin are still helping young readers build their skills with popular daily Facebook live sessions. See notifications on their Facebook page: facebook.com/fortheloveofdove/
The Washington-based nonprofit group called People. Animals. Love. has switched its in-person meetups to virtual sessions during the pandemic to serve hundreds of kids per month who are practicing reading. One mother apparently said how much her 6 year-old son is enjoying the sessions “He’s enjoying meeting the different types of dogs… He’s just been happy to read to someone other than his parents. It’s been a really good outlet for that.”
I am sure it helps cope with isolation and get homework done. Plus it give caregivers a quick break.
Many websites, schools and broadcasters like TVOKids and PBS offer resources for kids learning at home.
I decided to put up a video of Kilo the Pug for kids and adults to read to or relax with and talk to as they seem to enjoy talking to him and watching him on Kids’ Pet Club. Hopefully sharing him can make a few people feel better:
We also have the Penny P Pug Read-A-Long Video here: