Anyone who had a dog growing up knows that the bond between child and canine is a powerful one — so powerful, in fact, that plenty of kids feel closer to their pets than to their siblings. And the benefits of having a dog start about as early as they can: Research has shown that pregnant women who own furry pets give birth to healthier babies, meaning that long before family pups are drafted into duty as automatic playmates and go-to snuggle pals, they’re already helping out the youngest members of their human family in unexpected ways.
And then, a few years later, they’re at it again: As Gill Johnson, an assistant professor of education at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., recently argued in the Conversation, one of the best ways to encourage kids to cultivate a love of reading is to encourage them to do it out loud to a dog — a comforting, nonjudgmental (floppy) ear. “Children who are struggling to read, for whatever reason, need to build confidence and rediscover a motivation for reading,” she wrote, and “a dog is a reassuring, uncritical audience who will not mind if mistakes are made”:
Many primary schools are becoming increasingly pressurised environments and children (like adults) generally do not respond well to such pressure. A dog creates an environment that immediately feels more relaxed and welcoming. Reading can be a solitary activity, but can also be a pleasurable, shared social event. Children who are struggling to read benefit from the simple pleasure of reading to a loyal, loving listener.
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