Reading in front of the class is a terrifying thing to some students. In order to improve literacy skills of young students especially the shy ones, primary schools in Queensland, Australia introduced the four-legged teachers to their students. Story dogs is the name of the program that brings in dogs into the classroom to help first grade students to improve their reading skills and boost their self-confidence as well. Once a week dogs and volunteers come into the classrooms. The sessions last only for twenty minutes, where students are given the chance to read loudly in front of the class, the dog and its owner. According to reports, fifteen schools across Queensland are active participants of the program. More than 75 students receives help in reading every week.
How does the program boost young students confidence? The program helps in improving self-confidence in young children through a non-judgemental and fun environment. Somehow dog therapy aids in making the learning process fun, which is great for kids. When students have fun, they will start to feel comfortable with their environment and then they’ll have the courage to read in front of their classmates. The program is indeed a big success. Graham Mathias, brisbane South coordinator, stated that the program had made a big difference to the participants as well as the whole school. “We find that students who go to Story Dogs class are usually up and reading in the class within two weeks. Some haven’t read in class since they started school so it brings their confidence up as dogs don’t judge,” added Mathias.
Volunteers like Dougal and his owner Val Avent visit a participating school once a week. Avent and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pup, Dougal, got started with the program after a neighbor of theirs saw the ad in the paper and told her about it. “The students are usually excited about meeting the dog and we spend time doing that and we choose a book and assess where their reading is.” Dougal likes the program as much as the kids like it. In fact, the pup gets very excited whenever Val tells him that they are going to see the students. A first grade student named Evelyn said that “reading with a dog is exciting.” She also mentioned that her reading improved a lot since joining the program.
Images via 612 Brisbane: Terri Begley