Child laying down hugging their dog
5 October 2020

Listen Up! Pets Can Be Reading Helpers? Yes!

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Posted by Julie Lawless

The last few months living in this new COVID world have been tough on all of us – both individually but also collectively as families. From adapting to work-from-home to navigating online learning, it hasn’t been easy for parents and children to co-exist in one space all day. I know this firsthand as my 11-year-old, 14-year-old and I jockey for positions around the house for Zoom calls, homework and work. But, positives coming out of our extra time “stuck” at home together mean actual conversations with one another (teenagers!), strengthened relationships, and more time with our pets. I realized recently that our dog, Johnny, is teaching us all a valuable lesson as he moves from room to room hanging out with us during our time at home: how good it feels to slow down and just listen.


Pets are great listeners. They never judge, and they always support you no matter what the day brings – even if that’s online learning. Nearly  two thirds of students are beginning school virtually due to COVID-19. As a parent trying to work and help my kids at the same time, I’m looking for as much help as possible (while remembering to breathe…). Leaning on the family pet to help kids adjust to at-home learning might not seem like an obvious idea, but research shows that when reading to pets, children show improved reading rates, accuracy, fluency and comprehension. Reading to pets can also help your child stay on-task and improve end-of-year reading scores. Johnny’s support has been incredibly important to us, as we navigate online school with the learning differences in our home – and I am can’t even begin to pretend that I’m as qualified, patient or smart as my children’s teachers (I am more thankful than ever for them!).


I’m proud to share that The Elanco Foundation recently lent its support to Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization registering therapy animals for animal-assisted interventions, for a program dedicated to encouraging students to read to their pets. Through this new initiative, We Are All Ears, A Worldwide Read with Pets Project, Pet Partners and Elanco are encouraging families and children to read to their pets to foster youth literacy.


I hope you’ll join me in taking the We Are All Ears pledge and checking out the host of downloadable resources available for families, such as a reading log, bookmark templates and an animal-themed reading list. Your kids will love it! And your pets will love the extra attention and story time with their favorite family members. Be sure to also check out our recent podcast episode titled “We Are All Ears: The Benefits of Reading to Pets” where I chat with Pet Partners’ own Chief Mission Officer, Mary Margaret Callahan, about the benefits of reading with our pets. Not only is the podcast a fun listen – it’s packed full of interesting info.


During these unique times at home, I’ve promised myself more time to curl up with a good book. Now, I’m also pledging to do more of what Johnny does best: slow down, enjoy the moment and spend time listening to those who matter most. I look forward to seeing our next generation grow confidence and sharpen their reading skills alongside the best listeners and biggest cheerleaders – our pets!

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