It’s not a shaggy dog story – our canine friends can play a crucial role in overcoming children’s fears of reading aloud in class.
Research suggests that children can feel nervous and stressed when reading aloud in class, especially those who struggle, have low self esteem or special needs. That’s why trained dogs are being drafted into schools to listen to pupils as they practice reading, the BBC reports.
When dogs are in a room of children trying to read, the pupils become less stressed, less self conscious and more confident. Dogs are non-judgmental, attentive and perfect listeners, which is why the Bark and Read programme, run by the Kennel Club, is supporting charities that take dogs into schools as reading volunteers.
Bark and Read’s Tony Nevitt has taken Danny, his specially trained greyhound, into hundreds of schools. “This works really well with kids. The dog doesn’t judge or criticise and so it helps to build self-esteem,” he said. “We do this a lot with special needs pupils. They can sit there and spell out the words with them and the child knows the dog can’t spell!”
According to dog expert Fiona Firth, dogs can pick up humans’ emotion very easily: “There have been studies showing that they can feel empathy,” she said. “If someone is upset, even if they don’t know them, they will often go up to that person. They are very good at reading facial expressions.”
Linda Morgan, principal of a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, has seen the difference Danny has made to children who are reluctant readers or who have low self-esteem. “They go into the library with Danny and simply read to him. Their self-esteem has come on tremendously and their reading ages have come on too.”
Have you seen trained dogs helping pupils who are nervous when reading aloud, and if so are you impressed with the results? Share your experiences with the Eteach community!