October 2018 | Marguerite McNeil
JUST A couple of years older than her new pal, the Deloraine Primary grade 2 student smiled and then picked up a book and started to read. Stroking the dog with one hand, Alssya relaxed and read out loud while Bowza fidgeted a bit before settling into his ‘story dog’ role. Enjoying the novelty of the program, Alyssa said it was good fun to practice reading with a dog.
Aimed at improving reading skills and developing fluency and confidence, the story dogs program encourages children to read aloud to entertain a dog in a relaxing and non-threatening way. Story dogs go through some intensive training before being accepted as visitors into schools where they spend time with students listening to them read. And from all accounts the outcomes of the program are to be applauded. It is said that as well as being great listeners story dogs are non-judgemental and have a calming effect that encourages children to relax and try harder when they read.
In such a setting, childrens’ focus improves, their literacy skills increase and their confidence soars. Handler Alison Scott said that it was Bowza’s first year in the program and once the vest was on he knew that he was working and coming to school. She said that as well as listening to the children reading he could tell when they were struggling with a word and would give them a nudge to help them along.
Enthused by the success of the program she has seen a vast improvement in the reading skills of many children who have taken part, with some now reading twice as many books as before in the same time frame.
Photo | Mike Moores