How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Kids
While many people are familiar with therapeutic pets and how they can help lift up people’s spirits, bringing them into the classroom might sound far-fetched. How can a therapy pet possibly teach children the life lessons of kindness and empathy? Can a pet really alter the way that students feel about learning?
When children are struggling at home, it’s often harder for them to concentrate in school. And if kids experience trauma — such as the death of a family member, divorce or witnessing family or community violence — research shows that kids will have more difficulty tolerating frustration, controlling their impulses and managing their aggression.
Educational therapist Rebecca Barker Bridges believed that a dog could help students feel more confident about learning, and so she adopted Stanley, a golden retriever.
Bridges says that therapy pets allow children to focus on the animal instead of feeling self-conscious themselves. She says that this is a therapeutic distraction technique that relieves children of their worries, which helps their performance when reading.
“Students feel self-conscious about reading because they’re afraid of being judged by students and teachers if they don’t do a ‘good job.’ But Stanley dismantles this fear for them. He makes learning joyful,” says Bridges.