Having a Dog Could Make Your Child a Better Reader, According to a Study

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One of my earliest memories involves trying to read a page out loud from a challenging (for five-year-old me) book to my family. Despite tears and my swearing that I didn’t recognize the words in front of me, my mother encouraged me to keep reading—until I somehow finished the whole page. Her insistence paid off (I now actually enjoy reading), but according to a recent study, we both might have had a better time if we had a dog.

While you probably already know that owning a dog can teach children responsibility, it turns out that dogs can motivate kids to read for longer periods, too. 

In a recent study, Camille Rousseau, a Ph.D. student at UBC Okanagan’s School of Education, examined the reading ability of 17 children aged six to eight years. The children were observed while reading with and without a therapy dog in the room. The chosen reading passages were slightly above each child’s reading level and did not include any pictures. 

Throughout the study, the kids read aloud either to an observer (a researcher) with a dog or just an observer (without the dog). 

In both instances, the researcher gave each participant a reading passage and asked them to read it aloud as best as they could. When the child came to the end of the passage, the researcher asked if they wanted to continue reading. If the child responded positively, the researcher gave them the second part of the story and told them that they could stop reading at any time.

At the end of the study, the kids were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “Story reading is fun to do” and “If I could choose what to do right now, I would read a story.”

Talking to Science Daily, Rousseau said that children who “spent significantly more time reading and showed more persistence when a dog—regardless of breed or age— was in the room as opposed to when they read without them.” Rousseau also added that “the children reported feeling more interested and more competent.” 

These findings build on previous studies that also showed that kids who read to dogs go on to become better readers. One study found that children who read out loud to dogs at least once a week improved their reading fluency by as much as 12 percent compared to children who did not.

So, if you’re struggling to get your child to read, consider swinging by the animal shelter. Owning a dog might just be the easiest way to foster a love of reading in your kid.