Many people will remember Reading Buddies as older students who help younger students practice reading in school. They provide comfort and reading support for these emerging readers. Currently, in the book-loving world, reading buddies provide comfort and companionship, too. These buddies are, usually, of the four legged variety. In one of my Facebook groups, many posts revolve around our reading buddies. We share adorable pictures of them, laugh at their foibles and idiosyncrasies, and lament when they damage our books.
Earlier this year, I lost one of my reading buddies. My boy, Angus, was a Rottweiler / St. Bernard with a heart of pure gold who loved to put his head in my lap or on my book while petted him and read. My current reading buddy, is Max. He insists on having his favourite blanket with him even when we are experiencing record high temperatures in July. Max is a keep your paws off kind of boy. If you touch him, it won’t be pretty. He just wants to curl up on or beside you and go to sleep while you read like he isn’t even there. Still, reading is cozier with a buddy even one who just purrs beside you.
The benefits of reading to or with animals goes beyond mere comfort. They are listeners who do not judge and who love easily and freely. In fact, research studies are showing that reading can reduce stress. Additionally, it shows that reading with or to companion animals can further reduce stress and anxiety. Reading programs that have reluctant or struggling readers read to a companion animal are becoming more and more available. Increased confidence, decreased stress, improved reading skills, and better mental health have been reported as results of these types of programs. It seems that our natural inclination to having reading buddies with us serves a useful purpose. Our reading buddies give and receive love and attention as we take a moment to relax, enjoy, and read.
A Reading Buddy feel-good story: Kids Read to Shelter Dogs