Parents agree – the R.E.A.D. program works!
Parents can be pretty skeptical about the idea of their child reading to a dog in school. However, once the concept of R.E.A.D. is explained, we find that most concerns revolve around safety, hygiene, allergies and occasionally cultural issues.
Ottawa Therapy Dogs ensures that each R.E.A.D. dog is thoroughly screened and evaluated for temperament and skills, health and cleanliness, good manners and attitude. Our dogs go through rigorous testing and most R.E.A.D. teams have volunteered for least a year, and often longer, visiting patients in hospital environments that include palliative care units, Roger’s House and even CHEO before being evaluated specifically for working with children in the R.E.A.D. program. The idea is to make sure that R.E.A.D. dogs are as “bomb-proof” as possible, so they remain calm in the face of classroom chaos, school bells and alarms, and general noise and commotion. In addition, our handlers retain control at all times and are always within arm’s reach.
While occasionally a child may be afraid of dogs, it doesn’t take long for children to be drawn into the magic of reading with the kind of dog who inspires confidence and trust and who is calm and reliable and loves to be stroked. And, of course, our handlers never force any interaction, letting the relationship unfold naturally.
Ottawa Therapy Dogs sets the bar for hygiene standards.
Our organization has a long-standing history of being the gold standard with respect to therapy dogs’ health and hygiene requirements. Ottawa Therapy Dogs requires their animals to have annual check-ups with written veterinary confirmation of health records including up-to-date vaccinations and specific testing. Our dogs are scrupulously clean and well groomed before each session. (Remember, these animals are considered clean enough to go into hospitals!) As an extra precaution, all children are required to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer both before and after their reading sessions.
In addition, R.E.A.D. dogs use a wonderful product called Nature’s Miracle that is designed to lessen the likelihood of any allergic reaction to dog dander for several hours. However, even with these precautions in place, if a child suffers from severe allergies or asthma, the R.E.A.D. program would probably not be appropriate or enjoyable.
Respecting cultural sensitivities.
Communication is critical for each child to make the most of this unique literacy support program and the more information we have from a parent or teacher, the better we can adapt our R.E.A.D. sessions to work within cultural boundaries. For example, one little boy always wanted to be around the dogs, but he kept his hands clasped behind his back. The handlers, thinking he was perhaps frightened, reassured him that the dogs were friendly and encouraged him to touch them. He replied that it was not permitted, in his religion, to touch animals. The handlers were surprised, but upon asking the teachers found out that, indeed, he belonged to a particular Muslim sect that didn’t permit touching animals. The boy continued to be interested in seeing the dogs but very carefully avoided touching them. The parents had given permission for his visual participation and the handlers respected this boundary.
Therapy dogs can stimulate and encourage children’s love of books and reading. Research indicates such positive experiences help lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and a higher quality of life. It’s such a simple concept – reading to a dog – and yet the results are amazing.
If you have further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.