I love this story! Like yesterdays post, education is at it’s best when interesting and unorthodox ideas are devised to help improve the standard of learning and teaching. To get kids to read to dogs is just zany enough of an idea to work. Who needs teachers when you can employ dogs to do the same job?
A “LISTENING” dog has become Staffordshire’s latest teaching assistant – so he can help children improve their reading skills.
Primary school-age pupils will be reading stories to Danny the greyhound to build their confidence and overcome their fears of reading aloud.
Staffordshire County Council is only the second local authority in England to trial the idea and was due to be enlisting the help of its new four-legged recruit today.
The mild-mannered pooch was going to be working with about 30 youngsters at a library in Tamworth.
If successful, the project could be rolled out to other libraries this autumn to benefit schoolchildren across the county.
Danny and his owner, Tony Nevett, are part of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) programme, which has already proved a huge hit in the U.S.
Tony said: “He loves being read to and loves people.
“He will just be laying there on the floor while children are reading to him.
“Some children even show him the pictures in the books. Danny doesn’t judge them and he doesn’t criticise.
“For children who don’t like standing up in class, it can be a real help.
“We’ve had some fantastic results.”
Therapy dogs are already used to help people recover from illnesses or to befriend the elderly, which is where the idea to use them to aid literacy skills came from.
“It’s called animal-assisted therapy,” said 50-year-old Tony, who is based in Northamptonshire and has a degree in this line of therapy.
“When people stroke a dog, it’s been proven to lower their blood pressure.
“One of the reasons we use a greyhound is their temperament. They don’t bark.
“They are also the only type of dog with one coat of hair, so they are less likely to trigger allergies.”
The listening dog sessions can work in a variety of ways.
Sixteen-month-old Danny might listen to a child read on a one-to-one basis, or work with youngsters in small groups.
Pupils with special needs, such as autism, can draw particular benefits from working with Danny, although Tony is quick to point out that any child can enjoy working with a dog.
The books can tie in with the reading schemes they are using at school.
Staffordshire is following the lead of Kent County Council, which piloted the READ programme last year.
The approach in Staffordshire is especially innovative, because it involves running the sessions in a library.
Councillor Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture, communities and customers, said: “This may seem like a shaggy dog story, but it has a serious purpose.
“The idea is that children will lose their fear of reading aloud, because the dog is a non-judgmental, friendly audience.”
Despite only being a young dog himself, Danny already has a wealth of experience working with children.
He has a sideline as a ‘Blue Cross’ dog, where he goes into schools to help teach pupils about responsible pet ownership.
There’s an old joke often attributed to teachers that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Seems that joke can be altered from peanuts to shank bones now.