Once upon a time, an emerging reader stumbled over words. She hated reading aloud in class, and when she tried to read to her family, they constantly interrupted the story to correct her mistakes. She decided she hated reading until one day, her kitten, Theo, asked her to read him a book. He really did. He sat right on top of the book and purred until our young reader asked, “Do you want me to read to you?” Theo moved so she could pick up the book, then curled up in her lap to listen to the story. From that day on, Theo and our young reader shared new stories and adventures almost daily. Our emerging reader became confident and couldn’t wait to find new books to share with Theo. The end.

Pets are excellent reading companions. Dogs, fish, hamsters, bunnies, iguanas, and even stuffed furry friends provide safe listening ears for young readers. Reading to a pet (yours or one you borrow or meet through a reading buddy program) helps build skills, confidence, and a love for reading.

Six reasons to read to a pet:

  1. Practice makes perfect. The best way to become a competent reader is to practice. The more you read, the better reader you’ll become! You’ll become more comfortable sounding out words and even adding inflection to the story.
  2. Listening ears. A story is more fun when you can share it with someone. Unlike little brothers and busy moms and dads, pets don’t get tired of listening. Furry listening ears provide an attentive audience.
  3. No judgment! Theo, Fido, Thumper, and Lizzy aren’t going to mind if you mispronounce a word or even skip a page. They’re just happy to be close to you, sharing a story.
  4. Building confidence. Reading to a nonjudgmental friend builds confidence. You’ll want to read more and share more stories with other friends.
  5. Stress relief. Just being in the presence of a dog or cat can reduce stress and even lower blood pressure. Petting a furry friend can provide a sense of comfort, support, and well-being.
  6. FUN! Reading to pets is just plain fun. Visit the library and find a story about a dog, lizard, cat, or bunny you think your pet might enjoy.

Look for organizations in your community that pair children with pet reading buddies.