Dogs are struggling readers’ best friend!

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!

3 thoughts on “Dogs are struggling readers’ best friend!

  1. I’m a headteacher and we have Sid the dog at our school! The impact he has had, not only with encouraging children generally to take part in school life with reading, speaking and developing confidence but also with raising self esteem. He visits our nurture group and works alongside our most vulnerable children. The local pupil referral unit are now going to involve Sid and hopefully he will help to engage some of the young people and give them something to come to school for which isn’t threatening. It’s fabulous!!

  2. I am sure that dogs will be teaching children to read next and maybe even running the education department, wonders never cease…

  3. We have Seamus through Pets as therapy. I am a TA in year 6 and we don’t have him, but the other classes have been delighted with the positive effects with reluctant readers both boys and girls. Seamus just listens, as the article says, he doesn’t correct. We find he is a real winner!

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