Wonderful companions. Check. Reliable and intelligent. Check. A cure for loneliness. Check. Wonderful reading tutors? Acoording to recent research all these are perfectly true about dogs. Not only do these pets enrich or lives and teach us what responsibility is but they also prove to help young students improve their reading skills, or at least this is what recent research shows.

St Michael’s Primary School in Bournemouth, Dorset developed in April a program in which seven or eight-year olds read for 45 minutes each day to a dog.

The teachers consider the scheme to  be a very valuable one as progress was clearly noticeable, the impact it had on children being described as “significant”. This is hardly surprising as now children are really looking forward to read to their furry friends at school but also at home. Moreover, there’s no pesky adult to listen  just in order to criticise them or schoolmates to laugh at their mistakes or become impacient. Dogs are simply non-judgmental.

Children are now regarding reading as something positive and not a burden, this being the beginning of their life as readers. The program is especially efficient in the cases of children with low self-esteem as usually it is not intelligence that they lack, but confidence.

Trained dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, Labradors and Shetland sheepdogs are used in the scheme so that the relations between children and animals could be easily established. After the reading sessions children reward their “audience” by playing with the dogs and petting them. After all, it’s not all about reading, but about the ability to communicate too.

The program was organised by the Caring Canines charity and other schools have also shown their interest towards it.

However, not everyone agrees with the method. For example, Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education claims that the fact that dogs cannot correct the children’s mistakes means that real progress is not actually made. The reading dilemma remains.