GUADALAJARA – Children who read to a dog as a solution to help their reading problems, that is the initiative of an innovative public library in Guadalajara. Furthermore, the dogs are trained to listen.
The R.E.A.D. initiative (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) targets boys and girls with reading difficulties and helps them get better with dogs trained to listen. It started in the United States and is also used in other parts of Spain. Now 60 minors have also been registered in the city of Guadalajara to participate in the project.
During their training, the dogs have learned to listen to the children. Such a trained dog is visibly attentive and attentive. In this way, the young reader takes control and is the one who leads the session. This role as a protagonist increases self-confidence and makes the child do his or her best to ensure that the four-legged listener understands the story well.
According to Carolina Gutiérrez, coordinator of the program, this improves the child’s self-esteem. It creates “a space of peace and trust. Furthermore ,the dog, who learns from you, will never judge you. The environment is also less hostile than it can be in the classroom”. Because, there, feelings of shame and insecurity can cause reading anxiety.
Pilar, the mother of one of the children who has already tried, assures that her son is doing better. “He reads a little every night and looks forward to coming to read to a dog. He seems to be more motivated and happier,” said the mother.
The team consists of professionals from pedagogy, psychology, education or social work, and their dogs. In Guadalajara, the listening dog is a three-year-old Golden Retriever named Summer. Moreover, each reading boy or girl has 20 minutes to read a story. Manu, one of the kids who has already done his session, explains that “he moved when he didn’t understand something to let me know he didn’t understand.”
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs program for help with reading with dogs started in the United States. It is represented in Spain by the association ‘Perros y Letras‘. The overall aim is to help improve children’s reading habits, reading comprehension, self-esteem and emotional stability, though the association works with people of all ages.