By Kitty Felde

There’s nothing like sharing a book with a friend. Especially if that friend has a tail and a lot of fur. Dogs are non-judgmental. They don’t criticize mispronounced words or sentences that take forever to finish. They just listen.

Read-to-dog events have become part of regular programming around the country, including events at both the animal shelter and public libraries around Fairfax County. But if you can find a pooch in the neighborhood, try it yourself.

Research shows that – particularly with younger readers – reading aloud to canines can improve reading skills, improve self-confidence, and create a love for reading. Skeptics say any success can be chalked up to the novelty factor. In other words, dogs break up the boredom often associated with assigned reading.

But why should dogs have all the fun?

A shelter in Louisiana offers a monthly Kitty Litter-ature session, inviting kids to read to cats. What began as a way to socialize kittens to make them more adoptable expanded to create a safe place for kids to practice their reading skills.

Why stop there?

My next door neighbor is often seen in his front yard, reading a magazine to his tortoise. Wouldn’t it be fun to read Alyssa Satin Capucilli’s The Library Fish to an actual fish in a library? Zoo Atlanta offers a program for pre-schoolers called Animal Tales where a zookeeper reads a picture book aloud, then kids get a “tactile experience” at the zoo, related to the story. 

Parrots could be problematic, however, particularly with Dr. Seuss. Just imagine one squawking “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am” over and over and over again.

Kitty Felde is host/executive producer of the Book Club for Kids podcast. She also writes The Fina Mendoza Mysteries, a civics education series set in the U.S. Capitol.

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