Children learn by reading to dog
Buy this photo » Jenna Richmond, with Oliver
THEY say never work with children or animals - but that does not apply at one primary school in Bolton, where man’s best friend is helping youngsters develop a love of reading.
When it comes to picking up a book and reading out aloud, year two children at Devonshire Road Primary School do not have to be asked twice.
For waiting patiently to listen to the tale is Oliver, a five-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
He visits the school in Heaton every Friday with owner Barbara Winder, a retired college English lecturer, to hear children read to him as part of the Pets As Therapy improving the literacy skills of children scheme.
The idea is to boost children’s confidence in reading, particularly out loud to others.
Dog-lover Liz Gent, a teacher at the school, introduced the scheme.
Year Two pupils were chosen because they are at a key point in their reading development.
Mrs Gent said: “The scheme is designed to develop the confidence of children, some who are reluctant readers, to read and read out aloud because they sometimes don’t think they can do it.
“They love reading to Oliver, they are not nervous, they are getting one-to-one attention and Barbara used to be an English teacher.
“The children’s reading develops as well as their confidence to read out aloud.”
The Read2Dogs scheme was piloted in Hampshire in 2010 and proved to be a huge success. There are now 100 schools on a waiting list to introduce the scheme.
Mrs Winder said: “They gain confidence to tackle harder words.
“Sometimes children will discuss a book to make sure Oliver won’t worry and can cope with the story.”
Part of the school library has been turned into a special reading corner.
Mrs Winder said: “We have girl who will turn him around if he looks at other children coming into the library, to make sure he is paying attention.
“The children will look to see how Oliver reacts to their reading and will be dramatic in their reading.”
As well as developing their reading skills, the children also learn about being safe around dogs.
Laiba Majid, aged six, said: “Oliver is a very good listener, and I like to read to him and give him a cuddle.”
Jenna Richmond, aged six, added: “I look forward to Fridays so I can read to Oliver.”
Lewis Farrington, aged seven, said: “I read different books to Oliver and I look forward to reading to him.”
And to show their appreciation, children donated £100 from their class budgets to the Pets As Therapy charity.
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