Reading the dog a bedtime story may not be such a silly idea after all. A recent study, conducted through the school summer holidays of 2010, got second-grade students of varying abilities to read aloud to either dogs or people for thirty minutes once a week. The research produced some surprising results. Those children who had read to people actually displayed a slight decline in reading ability, as well as in their attitude towards reading, whereas - remarkably - those who read to dogs showed an increase in both of these measures. In addition, of the nine students assigned to read to people, a third dropped out of the study before completion. No children left the dog group. Though the results were small and not statistically significant in the case of this experiment, the study has opened up an area for further research on the therapeutic impacts of reading with dogs. The findings so far suggest nevertheless that reading with dogs could help to prevent skills from dropping over the course of the summer holidays and encourage a positive attitude towards reading which is so important in learning.
(This research isn’t truly zoology-related, but I just thought the idea of kids reading to dogs was really adorable!)
Ref: Lenihan et al. (2011) Benefits of Reading Assistance Dogs. Tufts University [link]