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Dogs Help Children Become Better Readers

photograph from School story

(8/22/2006)

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Dogs are a very popular pet in the Unites States. Most dogs just live with their families, but some dogs have very special jobs to do. Some dogs help police find criminals. Other dogs are trained to sniff out drugs or explosives. Some dogs assist people who are blind, deaf, or have trouble getting around. Amazingly, some dogs can tell when their owner is about to have a seizure. They signal their owner to lie down and be calm. Dogs that help their owners are called "Assistance Dogs."

A very special group of dogs are known as “Therapy Dogs.” These dogs are family pets with special training. The training allows them to go into public buildings and comfort people in need. The dogs are trained to be calm and quiet. Loud noises and unfamiliar places don’t frighten them. They enjoy spending time with people.

Some therapy dogs go into places such as hospitals and nursing homes. When the patients visit with the dogs, the patients are cheered up. They enjoy petting the dogs, and look forward to their visits. The dogs help to brighten their day. Therapy dogs can improve people’s health, as well. Studies show that when people pet animals, their blood pressure and heart rates go down. They are calmer, and their mood improves.

Other therapy dogs work in schools and libraries. The serve as warm and caring friends to children, but they also do more. In one town in California, therapy dogs have become children’s reading buddies.

The dogs belong to a therapy dog group called PAWS for Healing. Eight of these special dogs have been trained to be listening companions for young readers.

The local library is trying to encourage kids to enjoy reading more. The children are invited to meet at the library. They are paired up with a PAWS therapy dog and can read to the dog.

The dogs make a great audience. They don’t judge a child who cannot read well, they just listen calmly. The children can read at their own pace. The kids find it less intimidating than reading in front of their class. Sometimes, reading in front of their peers makes kids nervous. The dogs are quiet and attentive. They listen very well.

These therapy dogs are making a difference in the life of the children they visit. The children look forward to reading to the dogs, and the dogs love the attention. The library and the teachers are very happy with the program.

(This was adapted from an original story provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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