-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs can teach children
about responsibility, shower them with love and maybe even help
them maintain their reading skills.
Researchers found that reading aloud to canine companions over
the summer slightly improved some second-graders' ability to read
and their attitude about reading. On the other hand, children who
read to adults experienced declines in both areas, the study
The study, published online by the Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass., involved
second-grade students with different reading abilities and
attitudes about reading. Last summer, the children were paired with
either dogs or people and asked to read aloud to them once a week
for 30 minutes for five weeks.
The therapy dogs used for the study were trained for the Reading
Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) Program, which runs programs
at the public library near the school.
The study authors were surprised to see no significant
improvement in below-average readers who were paired with dogs.
"As with all academic studies exploring a new area, this small study raises more questions than creates answers," said study co-author Dr. Lisa Freeman. She said she hopes answers will emerge as the reading program continues at the local library.
But in terms of persistence, the dogs paid off. Whereas
one-third of the children who were asked to read to people dropped
out, all of the dog readers completed the project.
Experts note that research is considered preliminary if it has
not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for
publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human
Development provides more information on
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