Did You Know?

Reading to dogs can boost reading skills in children as well as help with emotional and social skills.  Programs in both school and public library settings are gaining in popularity because of these many benefits.

Reading Skills

  • Reading to dogs gives children essential extra practice with reading and oral skills.
  • Some children feel that reading becomes less difficult when reading to a dog and are more willing to read aloud at school.
  • Reading to dogs has motivated some children to start reading more at home, especially to their pets.
  • Children want to try reading more difficult books as they go through the reading to dogs program.
  • Kids feel more confident when answering reading related questions.
  • Research studies (see "Research Shows" below) have shown that reading fluency can increase after participating in a reading to dogs program.

Emotional Benefits

  • Children enjoy the program and think it's fun!  They look forward to coming to the library because a dog is waiting for them.
  • Children feel comfortable reading to dogs because dogs don't judge if a word is mispronounced.
  • The process of petting dogs can help with motor skills and is also known to be a calming factor that can reduce stress, blood pressure, and anxiety.
  • Some children feel nervous when reading aloud and reading with a dog immediately calms them down.
  • Kids feel safe when sitting with a dog from the program.
  • Reading to dogs boosts the confidence levels of struggling readers and gives children an increased sense of pride.
  • A child can feel like a leader by turning the book toward the dog, reading aloud, and pretending (s)he is the teacher. 
  • Children feel a sense of accomplishment by reading an entire book.
  • If a child has experienced a recent loss of a family member or pet, reading to a dog can help bring them comfort.

Social Benefits

  • Children learn to take turns while waiting for their chance to read to the dog.
  • Children can learn kindness and empathy by petting the dogs, cuddling with them, and bringing them treats.
  • Communication skills can be improved by practicing reading aloud.
  • Participants enjoy talking with each other and sharing books they have read.

Research Shows...

Concrete research data showing that reading to dogs programs actually help children improve their reading skills is just beginning to appear.  Although we know of the many social and emotional benefits that the program gives to young readers, the research studies detailed below show how reading skills increased for participants in reading to dogs programs.  Because reading fluency can be measured in a school setting, these two studies focus on research-based school programs.  To find out about some successful public library programs, please see the "Successful Programs" page.

University of California - Davis Study

In 2010, the University of California - Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension conducted a study to find out if reading to dogs could really improve reading skills in children.  They had noticed that there was not a lot of research that had been done on the topic, other than testimonials from children, parents, librarians, and teachers.  They worked with Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) to test and evaluate ARF's All Ears Reading Program.

Studies were conducted with a group of third grade students at an elementary school and also a group of home-schooled children.  The program lasted for ten weeks and the children read to the dogs once a week for approximately fifteen minutes, after having a few minutes to sit with the dog.  Two UC-Davis undergraduates who were trained to work with animals supervised the sessions.

In order to evaluate the readers, the Oral Text Reading for Comprehension Test was administered before and after the ten week session to evaluate reading fluency.  In the school setting, the readers improved their fluency by 12%, while the control students did not increase their fluency at all over the same time period.  Overall, the home-schooled readers increased their fluency by 30%.  

Qualitatively, the participants in the program believed it was a huge success.  Before the program started, many of the young readers didn't feel good about reading aloud.  Afterwards, they felt more confident in their reading skills and also felt safe when reading to a dog.  Their opinions of reading changed from feeling uncomfortable and self-conscience before the program to proclaiming that reading was much more enjoyable for them now.

To view a video about this research study, please visit the link below:

UC Davis Spotlight

Analysis and Evaluation of Sit Stay Read Program

In 2009, Corinne Serra Smith, a doctoral student at National-Louis University, wrote her dissertation on the effectiveness of Sit Stay Read, a reading to dogs program being used in select under-priveleged Chicago Public School classrooms.  Her goal was to measure if oral reading fluency increased in a group of 152 second grade students compared to 98 students who did not participate in the program.  Her research showed an oral reading fluency increase of 20% over the control group, which confirms the effectiveness of the program.  Qualitative results were also measured which proved the program's success with both teachers and students.  Teachers felt that Sit Stay Read was enjoyable for the students and also that the children were calmer with the dogs present.  They thought that the dogs were wonderful listeners for the readers and helped them feel good about themselves.  Students also loved the program because they felt that it was fun and helped them to really enjoy reading.

To read Ms. Smith's dissertation, please visit the link below:

Sit Stay Read Study

Sources for More Information
  • Briggs, Robin. "Paws for Reading." School Library Journal 49.6 (2003): 43. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
This is a journal article about a successful elementary school program in Wilmington, NC.
  • Francis, Alison. "Thursdays with MacGyver." Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children 7.2 (2009): 50-52. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
"Thursdays with MacGyver" discusses the success of a public library program in Poughkeepsie, NY.
  • Hartman, Anna. "Good Dog. Sit. Listen." American Libraries 41.8 (2010): 13. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. EBSCO. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.
This American Libraries article looks into a program started at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego City Library called "Read to Your Breed."
Started in 1999, the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program was the first such program in the country.
"Library Dogs" is a very comprehensive website with many helpful links for anyone interested in a reading to dogs program.
The Sit Stay Read program works with UIC to develop a curriculum used in Chicago inner-city schools.
  • Smith, Corinne Serra. "An Analysis and Evaluation of Sit Stay Read: Is the Program Effective in Improving Student Engagement and Reading Outcomes?" (2009). Dissertations. Paper 32.
Web. 27 Oct. 2010 <http://digitalcommons.nl.edu/diss/32>.
Ms. Corinne Serra Smith's dissertation addresses her evaluation of the Sit Stay Read program in Chicago.
This video provides highlights of the research study performed by UC-Davis.This summary provided by UC Davis discusses the Veterinary Medicine Extension's research study.