It's often said that a dog is man's best friend. But did you know that dogs, cats, birds, and pretty much any pet can be a friend to a struggling reader? Family pets, shelter animals, or even visiting animals at your local library can help enhance your child's reading skills. Here are just a few ways practicing reading aloud to animals can benefit your child:
1. Motivation: If you were a child who was told you could pick any book to read aloud without your mistakes being corrected, your motivation to read would jump up a few notches. That's exactly what happens when we provide the opportunity for kids to practice reading to animals. Often children will bond with the animal they are reading to and be motivated to visit that animal over and over again to read aloud.
2. Confidence: Struggling and reluctant readers often lack confidence when reading, especially when reading aloud. When a child reads to an animal, there is no judgment. A child can stumble through a word, read at a choppy rate, or take an extended amount of time to read a passage. The animal remains a consistent listening companion. Over time, a child will begin to feel more comfortable reading aloud, thus building reading confidence.
3. Fluency: Reading fluency, including reading speed and phrasing, improves with reading aloud and practicing the same material over and over. Animals don't mind if a child reads Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman twenty times. This safe listening environment provides opportunities for kids to rack up lots of practice time.
4. Reading for a Purpose: The benefits of reading to animals isn't just for the children. Animals are also helped from the attention they receive. It gives kids a sense of purpose when they sense the animals are benefiting from their kindness and attention through the act of reading.
So, where can you find an animal for your child to practice her reading? Here are a few opportunities:
Pets: If you have a family pet, then your child has a built-in reading partner every day of the week. Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, and birds all make good listening partners. A neighbor or an outside family member's pet can also work if you don't have your own.
MORE: Learning From Pets
Shelter Animals: There are many animals who spend long days in small spaces with limited human interaction. Shelters like your local Humane Society allow kids to read to the animals. Check with a local shelter near you for availability, hours, and other requirements.
Service Animals: Check your local library for reading to animal programs. Many have select days during the month that service animals visit the library. Your child can sign up for a time slot to read to an animal. The service animals are specially trained to sit or lay still next to the child during their reading session.
Stuffed Animals: Perhaps your child has pet allergies and reading to a live pet just isn't in the cards. A stuffed animal friend can serve the same role. Little ones especially love to read to their favorite stuffie.
Have your young or struggling reader give reading to an animal a try. You will be pleased to see your child's love of reading — and your animal's — flourish.
Connect with Jodie Rodriguez on her site, Growing Book by Book.
Featured Photo Credit: © Freila/Thinkstock