Benefits of Reading to Your Kids and Pets

Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 3:00pm
Benefits of Reading to Your Kids and Pets

Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty Yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her on Twitter.

I read recently in a New York Times article that doctors are encouraging parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, as it enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills in children. I also learned that reading has benefits for shy or timid four-legged family members as well.

I asked ASPCA animal behavior experts if reading is a good socialization activity for dogs nervous around people, and found out that reading helps fearful dogs become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction. As an individual reads out loud, he or she is focusing on something other than on the dog. In turn, the dog grows accustomed to the person’s presence and voice, which is much less intimidating than being handled or stared at (see the ASPCA’s article on canine body language. If you have a dog who is terrified of people or specific individuals, you may want to seek professional help to find out how to help reduce your dog’s anxiety.

Reading is also a good activity for those who aren’t yet skilled enough—e.g., my two-year-old son—to handle a timid dog. If there’s a choice between playing with your iPhone and reading a book, encourage your kids to go for the book and make it a family activity. You might be surprised by the results, as I was—my dogs Olive and Mikey sat quietly nearby while we read a story about Splat the Cat. Our next book? Skippyjon Jones, a story about a irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua.

Benefits of Reading to Your Kids and Pets

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mandy-lou

A great idea

Karen

I've read to my Great Danes since they came home at 8 weeks of age. They're two years old now. They have also listened to music before bed time since they were babies. I made sure to always have music playing during storms or fireworks. They sleep thru both.

S. O. Rooney

I have one boy (three cats) that totally freaks out about thunder and fireworks. I give him Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic calming agent. But for some reason I can't imagine, I never thought of music. Of course! Thanks!

Cathy

I've never read to my pets, but I can see why it can be a comfort to them. I sing at my church, and when I practice at home, my dogs love to sit and listen to me. I also have a cat who as a kitten was bottle fed and she fall sleep cradled on my shoulder after nursing. But when she grew up, she never wants to sit in my lap except when I am singing!

Davis

As I have gotten older, I have switched most of my reading to talking books. My dog likes to curl up with me when I'm listening and seems to enjoy it. His favorite author is Stephen King.

mplo

When I first purchased my now 4.5 year old pet Congo African Grey, Aziza, I also purchased a book of Mother Goose poems to read aloud to her. She seemed to enjoy it.

Joni

I, too, have always read books to all my pets from puppyhood. I have always found that my voice calms them and they stay quiet and listen intently, especially as they got older.
A great book is S.J. GOES HOME, by J.C. Carr, and can be found on Amazon.com. It is the story of S.J., a rescued puppy mill and shelter collie, who tells his story from the perspective of a puppy mill collie. It also has full page color illustrations. A great book for pets and children. It teaches children compassion and respect for puppy mill dogs and encourages shelter pet adoptions. I purchased 10 copies for Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews and they just absolutely LOVE this book. They took it to school and their teachers read it to the class. Everyone loves S.J. GOES HOME.