Paws for Reading
The R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs®) program was introduced in November of 1999. The mission of the R.E.A.D. program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors. The R.E.A.D. program utilizes registered therapy animals, to offer children a highly effective, interactive and motivational way of improving reading skills.
In January of 2000 the R.E.A.D. pilot program began in a Salt Lake City Elementary school. Children who were struggling most with reading, social skills and difficult circumstances at home were selected by the reading specialist to participate. The Pilot program was a huge success. Teachers, reading specialist and library professionals who have incorporated R.E.A.D. into their programs thought very highly of the non-judgmental approach to literacy.
Literacy mentorship programs can be implemented in many settings, for example; elementary schools, preschools, after-school latchkey programs, healthcare facilities, local libraries and even in a child's home. The focus of the reading is age-appropriate books with animal themes.
Getting Involved in Literacy Mentorship
If you are interested in this type of setting, you will require some additional training to prepare you and your animal to be as knowledgeable and as comfortable as possible so that the time you invest reading with a child will be as effective as possible. You may want to observe literacy mentorship in action before getting involved with your own animal.
With this setting, it is important to consider your animal’s ability and comfort level with lying still for an extended period of time while a child reads to it. With what age group is your animal most comfortable? Young, active children may be boisterous and want to handle your animal, or older children may prefer just to share a quiet time with your animal. Would you prefer a public setting such as a busy school, or a public library, or is a quiet private home more suitable to you and your animal’s temperament? You may even want to consider investing in building a library of your own of children’s books which have an animal theme. In any case, in this setting, it is important to love children and books and have a very calm, gentle and docile animal that will lie quietly still for as long as needed while being read to by a child.
For a complete resource reference, including answers to frequently asked questions, you can visit the website of Intermountain Therapy Animals, at www.therapyanimals.org.
If you want to join the Mid South Therapy Dogs and become involved in our literacy mentorship program with your animal, please send a note to our program coordinator at contact us