The first day of school can often bring forth understandable jitters. Sometimes, however, the most daunting task a child can face during the school year is to read aloud in front of their peers.

Since development varies from child to child, some may be at a more advanced stage of reading ability, while others have difficulty deciphering complex words. Having to struggle through a sentence in front of their classmates and feel humiliation can be stressful; it often discourages the child to give up reading altogether.

To not have the desire to learn to read would be a great loss since reading brings so much to a person’s life, specifically a child’s. Reading helps a child’s imagination grow by translating the descriptions of people, places and things into images in their mind. Children can also learn about people, ways of life and ideas that may be different than what they are used to in their own surroundings through literature.

If your child would benefit from assistance in learning to read, tutoring with a parent or teacher after school can be a suitable option. If your family happens to own a pet, this can also prove to be an excellent way to help your child gain confidence in reading. Reading to a four-legged “tutor” is great because they will sit next to the child and calmly listen. They will not correct the reader when they stumble over a word or make the child feel embarrassed, thus allowing them to become more comfortable with their reading skills.

You can help make it more fun by asking your child to choose books that they think their pet would like most. Making the reading lesson focus on the pet may encourage your child to be more excited to participate as they will believe they are teaching their pet to read, while improving their own ability in the process.

Libraries have also started offering programs for helping children to learn to read with therapy dogs. This is an ideal service if there is not a pet available at home and you wish to try out this learning method. This program works by placing a child with a designated dog, choosing a book, settling them both down on a mat or cushion and having the child read aloud from the book to the therapy dog.

Many parents who have tried this alternate approach to tutoring have reported amazing progress with their child’s reading acceleration. Some even reported a 12-percent increase in reading fluency.

If you are interested in trying out one of these groups, visit www.readingwithrover.org for available times and dates.

MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital (www.madisonparkvet.com). To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.