Can reading to therapy dogs help struggling children?

therapy-dog-pictureIn the article “How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Children,” on KQED News, author Juli Fraga explains how reading comprehension changed at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in San Fransisco by simply having a therapy dog on campus. Fraga begins her article about two years ago when principal Diane Lau-Yee noticed that her students were not performing well in their academics due to tragedies in the household-such as deaths, violence, etc. She specifically noticed that those with these types of problems expressed it in different ways; some would lash out and get angry leading to fights and others would completely shut down. Lau-Yee wanted to find a way to fix this problem and help her struggling students. Fraga continues by sharing Lau-Yee’s way of helping her students with the use of a therapy dog. She believed that by giving her students the emotional tools needed through the use of the dog would teach the students about empathy and help with the literacy needed for their education. This is when Lau-Yee decided it was best to get help from Stanley, a therapeutic dog who was beloved by most of the children in the community. Stanley belongs to educational therapist Rebecca Barker Bridges who believes that a dog can help students feel more confident in the classroom. Bridges said that,”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.” Principal Lau-Yee felt that this was very important to the children at her school. The first time she took Stanley to an assembly the students were immediately drawn to him and she knew it was the perfect fit.

In todays world the use of therapy dogs is becoming a lot more popular. It seems that you see them anywhere you go. But, the problem lies with the fact that most of these “therapy dogs” aren’t qualified to be a therapy dog. Specific qualifications need to be tested by an organization in order for them to legally be a therapy dog. When reading this article, it made me feel happy for the children who were receiving help and were realizing that they do have a companion that can show them love and teach them empathy. It also made me enraged due to there are many dogs and trainers out there that put much time and effort into training these dogs for the needs of children and adults; Now, with people buying “service dog” vests online it is making it more difficult to take the dogs that are certified out into public for the needs of others. This article reminds me of how the culture of our school has changed since we have dogs on campus now. Although the dogs at school are being trained for a different purpose, they still help eliminate some stress from our daily lives just like the dog in the article. One question I am still left with is if dogs can help improve reading comprehension in elementary students, why can’t most schools have them available to students when needed



3 thoughts on “Can reading to therapy dogs help struggling children?

  1. Brianna, thank you for bringing this situation to my attention. I was surprised to learn that the use of therapy dogs are becoming more popular. This reminded me of the time when I was still in elementary we had a dog that would walk around everywhere and visit the classrooms while we were busy working. I’m not quite sure if it was a therapy dog or a guide dog, but it there was a dog that stayed in the classroom of the kids who require a little more attention in the classroom. I was always relieved to have a dog in the classroom because the teacher let us stop doing work and pet the dog, it always seemed to calm the class down. I later learned that, those dogs help bring comfort and security to kids on campus and to the faculty. After conducting my own research, I’ve found that therapy dogs can make kids be less bored, provides comfort, increases self-confidence, and it can even help kids overcome speech and emotional disorders.
    It just puzzles me that so many people will buy service dog vests for their untrained dogs, just so they can take them to public places. Now the chances of schools being able to get a therapy dog will be slim because the requirements will be stricter since it could be any dog that could be untrained. If I were to rename this article it would be “A kid’s best friend” because this article is about therapy dogs helping kids with problems and helping the kids cope with the problem.


  2. Hey Bri! Thanks for writing about this topic. I love how you chose to write on a topic that I can relate to. I totally agree with you when you said that the culture of our school is improved with the allowance of guide dogs. I feel like many students- and teachers alike- release stress when met with the guide dogs. This situation reminds me of the time when I snapped at my friend, but then I totally fell weak when his dog came to lick my toes.
    I think this new culture should expand across the nation, but my only concern is for the students who may be allergic to the dogs- which makes this culture detrimental. I wonder if the case study you included within your blog is applied to the general population. Maybe we would need a larger sample of the population to come to a more accurate conclusion.
    An alternate title could be “Dogs give schools life!”, because the dogs can improve the academic scene for- I’d say- most students.


  3. Brianna thank you for talking about this topic,
    in my personal experience I have noticed there was a change within myself when I first got my dog. I was happier and actually had a motive to go outside and play. it had helped relieve all kinds of stress, not just for me but also my siblings as well. I believe that we should have more guide dogs or any types of pet animals at school. it truly does help lighten the mood.
    In my opinion I would say that it is a necessity, if students can improve their mood then their grades will go up as well.


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