I consider myself to be a patient person. I can sit through hours of ballet rehersals and play practices, unending games of Chutes and Ladders (without cheating!), and long, complicated stories about who-had-what-for-lunch at school each day. But I'm finding that one aspect of parenting that can try even my patience is in teaching my youngest how to read.

Don't get me wrong. I really do love reading with my kids. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to do with my kids. But it's just so very hard to listen to my youngest learn how to read, without jumping in to read it for her. She can read the word "the" seven times in one book and then struggle to sound it out the next time she sees it. She can sound out a word like "harbor" and then get stumped at the word "a". (I'm not kidding!) And as much as I will myself to remain silent, I can't help but tense up at the insane contradictions that come with learning how to read.

It turns out, I'm not alone. Researchers have found that it's hard for a parent — or anyone who already knows how to read for that matter — to patiently sit by and listen to another person struggle to read. This is precisely why the latest trend in teaching kids to read has gone to the dogs — literally.

Experts say that reading to dogs — specifically those trained to read with children — helps kids get over the fear of being judged when they read. Because try as we might to hide it, young kids feel that tension when they make mistakes. Reading to dogs gives kids a non-judgmental, comforting companion to listen to them without the pressure of perfection.

Research confirms it: A study this year by researchers at the University of California, Davis found that kids who read to specially trained therapy dogs improved their reading skills by 12 percent over the course of a 10-week program. Kids who read by themselves or to adults showed no improvement in the same 10-week program.

Check out the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program or Tail Wagin' Tutors to see if there are any reading assistance dogs available in your area.

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