Friday, September 26, 2008

Reading with Dogs - Great Programs for Children

I love to read. It has been one of my favorite pastimes since I was a child. My mother used to read to me and taught me to read long before I went to school. Not every child has that sort of interaction and not every child feels comfortable with books, with reading aloud in the classroom, sounding out the words, enjoying the stories. 

One way to facilitate childhood reading, especially for children who are shy or have problems with reading, is to bring a dog into the classroom and have the child read to the dog. The dog, unlike a human, doesn't criticize, doesn't pass judgement, or cause the child to feel uncomfortable in any way. Studies have shown that reading to a dog reduces stress. This can help facilitate reading. 

Reading programs that include a dog have proven to be very successful.  Therapy Dogs International has a reading program (, as does Therapy Animals ( whose program is called R.E.A.D. - Reading Education Assistance Dogs.  There's Reading with Rover ( and there are more.

These programs are community-based, facilitated with local dog/owner teams who have passed tests for going into schools and/or libraries and allowing the children to read to their dog. 

What do the children read? They read a variety of books but I've discovered one new series that is geared to dog facilitated reading programs. Written by Robert J. McCarty and illustrated by Stella Mustanoja McCarty, the Planet of the Dogs series is geared to children of all ages. 

The first in the series, Planet of the Dogs is the story of the very first time that dogs arrived on our planet to teach people about love and to save the farmers of Green Valley from the invasion of the Stone City warriors. Castle in the Mist is the 2nd book in the series. In this book the dogs return to earth from out in space, on the other side of the sun. This time they arrive to prevent war and free kidnapped children from the Castle in the Mist. 

Coming in October is the third book in the series, Snow Valley Heroes, which is the story of how the dogs saved Christmas.

This delightful series, published by Barking Planet Productions, can be purchased separately or together for use in a reading program or at home. More information about these books can be found at:

Any one of these books would make for a delightful - and one would assume cherished - gift for any child. All three would be an amazing reading adventure.

The books are available from your favorite online bookstore. Find the reading program nearest you. If a reading with dogs program doesn't yet exist in your community, you might want to work towards that goal. 

Every child deserves the magical escape found in a good book.

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