Animal Companionship Boosts Childhood Literacy


Yours Humanly

June 17, 2021

Animal Companionship Boosts Childhood Literacy

Early literacy in childhood is known to have a significant impact on academic achievement and productivity in future years. Reading is a great way to promote literacy in children, but perhaps equally as important is the context of that experience. How children experience words and language during their early years forms the basis of their future interactions with spoken and written language. It turns out that when it comes to developing literacy skills, all a child needs are a pair of listening ears—namely, animal ones!

A study conducted by researchers at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found that when a group of homeschooled children ages 7 to 12 consistently read out loud to animals of their choosing over a 10-week period, they saw a 30% increase in reading fluency by the end of the study. Building onto previous implications of the benefits surrounding pet companionship, UC Davis researchers took this one step further to explore animals’ anxiety-reducing effects within the context of promoting literacy by enhancing children’s reading experiences and confidence with the presence of a few furry friends. And, by extension, feathered, scaled, hooved, and other characteristics of cherished companion animals.

In this study, researchers worked in conjunction with Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), which provided therapy dogs for children to choose from during their weekly reading sessions. By the end of the study, not only did the children improve statistically, in terms of measured words per minute and errors per minute, but they also reported feeling more confident when reading to the dogs. The lack of judgment they perceived from the animals allowed them to relax and enjoy the reading experience much more, proving effective as a method for fostering literacy.

Numerous other programs around the country emphasize the positive impact of animals on literacy, such as the All Ears Reading program from ARF and the ARF! (Animals + Reading = Fun!) program from Therapy Dogs of Santa Barbara (California). More widespread implementation of such programs could make a world of difference in children’s lives by offering them an enjoyable experience that will nurture literary skills benefiting them throughout the rest of their lives.

Yours Humanly is on a mission to bring education to underprivileged children around the world, and as a part of that mission, we are vocal advocates for childhood literacy. We believe reading is at the heart of all education, encouraging academic success and a lifelong love of learning. Through our Coloring Futures initiative, Yours Humanly hosts literacy programs and family literacy nights to promote reading and parent engagement. We donate reading books and bilingual books to grow school and classroom libraries and encourage reading at home with family and friends—and pets!

With the support of our donors, sponsors, and volunteers, we will continue to explore innovative possibilities to expand our reach and implement new programs—such as utilizing animal companionship to boost literacy—to engage the hearts and minds of children.


Karen Li

Karen Li is a sophomore studying computer science at UC Berkeley, with a passion for writing and helping others. Through her words, she hopes to reach people and make a positive impact in the world.