Remedial reading’s going to the dogs

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On the same page: Cass Collett reads to Millie the dog watched by Angela Comden, of Story Dogs and Michael Johnson, of Bendigo Bank Dromana. Picture: Yanni

WHEN’S a dog not just a dog?

When it’s a story dog helping children learn to read, of course.

Story Dogs is a nationwide charity in which volunteers take their dogs into schools to listen to children read and help improve their literacy.

Victorian sponsorship development officer Kim Croft said when children read to a dog the outcomes are amazing. “When they are in a non-judgmental setting, the children’s focus improves, their literacy skills increase and their confidence soars,” she said.

“The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic and helps children relax, open up, try harder and have fun while reading to a friendly, calm dog.”

Story Dogs has been running for 10 years and has 518 volunteers Australia wide. The 26 volunteers on the Mornington Peninsula take their dogs to 16 primary schools.

Story dogs are accredited by professional dog trainers to assess whether they are suitable. The volunteers then undertake training to learn how to make reading fun by working through the dog.

Retired school teacher and Rosebud resident Angela Comben joined Story Dogs with her seven-year-old Labrador Millie in August. They attend Eastbourne Primary School.

Millie is sponsored by Bendigo Community Bank Rosebud Rye Dromana which covers the costs of everything needed for the dog team to work in the school for the year. This includes accreditation of the dog, training for the volunteer, uniforms, books, book bag, reading rug and insurance.

The program we run is free for the children but without the generous support of our sponsors and time given by our volunteers we would not be able to provide this program,” Ms Croft said.

“Our dogs get so excited when we put on their story dog vests. This is their signal they are going off to visit the children.

“Then, when we arrive at the school, the children are so excited to see the dogs it creates a win-win situation for us and is very rewarding for our volunteers to see the progress of the children.”

Volunteers are welcome to join the program.

Details: visit storydogs.org.au

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 5 November 2019

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