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Reading Paws: Dogs help youngsters read better

Program helps children overcome fear of reading

Connie Robinson and her dog, Gidget, and Nuriayah Hughes, 7, demonstrate how the READing Paws system of having children reading to dogs aloud builds their confidence to be better and more relaxed readers. Hatcher Hurd. (click for larger version)
July 18, 2012
ROSWELL, Ga. — They don't often let dogs into the Roswell Library, but then Gidget, a golden doodle (retriever-poodle mix), is not just any dog.

With her master, Connie Robinson of Alpharetta, Gidget is specially trained as a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ) that helps young readers read better.

You say, "What? Dogs can't read!"

And of course you are right, but dogs are great listeners. And research shows, reading for young people is less about any intellectual limitations than it is about overcoming the fear of reading aloud.

And READ dogs are specially trained to be passive in the presence of young children who then learn to read aloud with confidence.

Robinson, a volunteer in READing Paws, an affiliate of READ, says that animal reading companions help in several ways:

** They increase relaxation and lower blood pressure.

** They listen attentively.

** They absolutely do not judge, laugh or criticize.

** Are less intimidating than peers.

"Reading to Gidget helps children build confidence," Robinson said.

And according to READ, the results can be significant. Children have been shown to make great strides in their reading and comprehension skills while also building greater self-esteem, confidence and social skills.

Parents report their children become excited about reading aloud, where before they were reluctant and shy about doing it.

Educators report that after taking part in the READ dog program, participants improve academically and actually begin enjoying reading.

The Roswell Library along with the Sandy Springs Library are two sanctioned locations for the READing Paws program. Go to for more information.

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