Literacy and the ability to read are fundamental life skills. However, 25% of Austrian children and teenagers are at risk of failing to develop these key abilities. The socio-economic status of their family and the COVID-19 crisis also play a major role in a child’s reading development.
2,000 Euro Prize 2021
Region: Upper Austria
Sector: Civil Society / Social Economy
Fields of action: Poverty, Non-formal education
Project owner: Caritas für Menschen in Not (Caritas for people in need)
Responsible person: Mag.a Bettina Falzeder, MA
Lesehund not only improves reading skills for children and teenagers, but also strengthens other essential elements in their development. The reading assistance dog also provides relaxation from stress and boosts their confidence. This positive motivation makes reading fun and helps children to read (aloud) without fear and stress.
Children and teenagers of all reading levels practice reading in a familiar setting. The programme works in collaboration with Caritas OÖ (Caritas of Upper Austria); participants are placed in the programme from Caritas institutions.
Reading with an assistance dog increases the child’s reading and literacy skills. The programme also boosts the children’s and young people’s self-confidence. Lesehund is also expanding to more educational institutions.
Lesehund originated in the U.S. and is currently implemented in Germany and Switzerland. The programme is also supported by scientific evidence. It is possible to adapt the programme to more regions in Austria and other countries. The programme in Upper Austria is also planning to expand into extra-curricular activities and social services.
This socially innovative programme impresses with its light-footedness, or perhaps better its light-pawedness. The reading assistance dog listens calmly, does not pressure or interrupt, but shows patience and attention. The connection between the child learning to read and the specially trained dog makes reading fun and relaxing, while improving the child’s reading skills and self-confidence. Lesehund is simple, affordable, and effective based on scientific evidence. The reading assistance dog can listen everywhere, so the project is likely to grow.