A public library in Virginia is sponsoring a program for children to read books. . . to dogs. The Alexandria, Virginia library “Paws to Read” program has children in grades 1-6 reading books to dogs. The flier promoting the program, paid for through Alexandria City tax dollars, is here:
In the program, parents are not allowed in the room when the children are reading to the dogs. The dogs, advocates boast, won’t judge or correct the children. The judgment-free and correction-free dog reading zone, naturally, has roots in academia. The University of California at Davis produced a study called “Reading to Rover” that catalogs the benefits of children reading to dogs, instead of with parents.
One child in the UCAL Davis study described why she prefers reading to dogs instead of with her parents: “The dogs don’t care if you read really, really bad so you just keep going.”
With no parents or adults in the room, it is unclear how the dog is able to report on what areas the child must improve.
Reading to dogs, instead of adults, creates a judgment-free zone that advocates relish. “The dogs, in contrast to a human, don’t judge the individual, aren’t grading the individual, and hopefully that allows the children to build some confidence in their reading skills,” said Martin Smith, a U of California Davis veterinary school science educator and lead researcher on the study.
Proponents of children reading to dogs without parents around argue that reading to dogs is easier for the child, because they aren’t being corrected by the dog. This benefit, the proponents argue, helps the child learn to read.
One Alexandria parent I spoke with about the Paws to Read program had a different view: “This is insane.”
Next thing you know, Virginia public schools will start replacing chairs in classrooms with bouncy balls (page 27 at big link), or, invite aging hippies into classrooms to teach songs praising the Occupy movement and Barack Obama.
Alexandria, Virginia has one of the highest per capita government spending rates in the nation at $3,798 per city resident. In contrast, Los Angeles spends $1,811 per resident. Hampton, Virginia and Hollywood, Florida, two cities with almost identical populations to Alexandria, spend $1,659 and $2,504 per capita, respectively.