Explore the benefits of reading to dogs | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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06 September, 2016

Explore the benefits of reading to dogs

A child reads to Finn the Guide Dog at Marrickville Library.

Meet a furry friend at the library during the Fringe Festival

Children can cuddle up and read a story to a furry friend as part of the first Reading to Dogs program at the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Not only will the sight of children reading to companion dogs, Milo and Finn, be adorable, but the program at three Inner West libraries for children aged from 4 to 12 years, also has a serious side.

"Research has shown that reading to dogs can provide children with many benefits such as emotional and social skills," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's Pets As Therapy Coordinator, Sam O'Keeffe said.

"Reading to Dogs programs have gained popularity overseas because of the far-reaching benefits," she said. "When reading to a dog, some children feel that it becomes less difficult for them to be able to read aloud at school and it also encourages them to start reading more often at home, especially to their pets."

"The emotional benefits also play a big role in the reading to dogs program. Most children really enjoy reading to a dog as they know the dogs won't judge if a word is mispronounced."

A child reads to companion dog, Finn at Marrickville Library.

Pets As Therapy companion dogs

Finding dogs with a perfect calm nature to participate in the program was easy for Guide Dogs, who have run a Pets As Therapy (PAT) companion dog program for more than 30 years.

The program places carefully selected companion dogs with people who may be disadvantaged due to age, illness disability or isolation at no cost to that person.

"PAT dogs can play a particularly important role in the emotional and physical development of children, by providing a source of love and companionship," Sam said.

During the Fringe Festival, children will be given the opportunity to read to Milo and Finn for 15 minutes, while sitting in a bean bag and interacting with the dog, such as giving him a pat.

Program a success in other countries

An Inner West Council spokesperson said Marrickville Library staff were always looking at different ways to encourage reading.

"We heard about similar programs happening in the USA with great success. We wanted to provide a different experience of reading to the children of Sydney's Inner West that would be fun, relaxed and unique," she said.

"Sydney Fringe Festival is a wonderful opportunity to partner with organisations like Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in getting the word out there about the beauty of reading and dogs. All our Reading to Dogs sessions will be held at local Marrickville branches as part of the Fringe Festival, which promotes the arts and cultural industries."

Sessions will be held at Marrickville Library on September 3, Stanmore Library on September 10 and Dulwich Hill Library on September 17.

"The children will hopefully go away having had a fun reading experience," the council spokeswoman said. "It is also a wonderful opportunity to provide access to dogs for children in the inner-city suburbs who may not have dogs at home, whilst promoting the great work and services of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT (not to mention the wonderful work of the dogs themselves)."

PAT dogs trained by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently, are obedient, have a good temperament and are not too boisterous.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than two per cent of its funding needs from the government and is reliant of the generosity of the community to fund its services at no cost to those who need them.

* Source: readingtodogs.weebly.com/research.html