What is R.E.A.D.®?
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs®
(R.E.A.D.) program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a dog. But not just any dog.
R.E.A.D. dogs are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children.
Today, hundreds of registered R.E.A.D. teams work throughout the United States and Canada. R.E.A.D. is one of those ideas that, in the words of Bill Moyers, “pierces the mundane to arrive at the marvelous.”
Intermountain Therapy Animals, a nonprofit organization, launched R.E.A.D. in 1999 as the first comprehensive literacy program built around the appealing idea of reading to dogs, and the program has been spreading rapidly and happily ever since!
How Does It Work?
R.E.A.D. utilizes registered therapy animals who have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament. When these special 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.
“Fear can destroy intelligence,” says educator William Ayers.
Animals are ideal reading companions because they
• help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
• listen attentively
• do not judge, laugh or criticize
• allow children to proceed at their own pace
• are less intimidating than peers
When a R.E.A.D. dog 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. In addition, when children accomplish goals set in the program, they receive brand new books to keep which are “pawtographed” by their 4-footed reading companions— no small reward!
Where Does R.E.A.D. Happen?
R.E.A.D. programs are being implemented all across the country in:
• elementary schools
• preschools and child care facilities
• before- and after-school programs
• healthcare facilities
• boys and girls clubs
• youth detention facilities
Creative new ideas and variations occur with our teams all the time!