Good Education Group has partnered with in-school literacy charity, Story Dogs, by sponsoring a dog team to work with Glenferrie Primary School students. Story Dogs is based on the successful American literacy program, Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), built around the idea of children and young adolescents reading to dogs. Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitations and more about overcoming fears, which can create an ever-widening gap between students with reading difficulties and proficient readers.
The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives the Story Dogs program its magic. Animals are ideal reading companions because they promote relaxation, do not judge or criticise and allow children to proceed at their own pace.
As a result, the children’s focus improves, their literacy skills increase, they have fun and their confidence soars.
Megan Morgan, a regional coordinator for Story Dogs, says students love reading to a dog because the dog is a non-critical audience, so they are assured from the start that it is ok to make mistakes.
“We often have students who lack confidence and feel reassured by having a furry friend to talk to,” says Morgan.
“Some of our students have never had regular one-on-one reading time before and they tell us that Story Dogs makes them feel special.”
Dog handlers are there to help build a relationship between the child and the dog. If the child is having difficulty the handler will read for them until they feel comfortable. Story Dog handlers are volunteers and, in most cases, are also the dog’s owner.
Story Dog volunteer, Fiona Rogers, felt her golden retriever, Murphy, had such a gentle, placid disposition that she wanted to share him in a volunteeringcapacity.
“Being a mother, working in a school and knowing how important it is to be able to read for life made me apply to Story Dogs. I knew Murphy would bring a smile to everyone he came into contact with,” says Rogers.
“Murphy and I love going to Glenferrie Primary each week and helping the students. It’s so rewarding to see the students’ confidence and reading skills grow each week and I can see that Murphy is loving his job too.”
During the session, each student is one-on-one with the dog and the volunteer handler. The student becomes the teacher as they help the dog understand the story, making reading fun and ultimately helping students to become confident lifelong readers. Some students even write letters to the dogs between sessions and enjoy reading these letters to the dog, further developing literacy skills.
On Monday 4 June 2018, Murphy was inducted into the program during Glenferrie Primary School’s morning assembly. Thanks in part to the sponsorship by Good Education Group, Murphy and Fiona will attend the school each week to read with selected Year 2 and 3 students.
After practicing his reading with Story Dog, Billy, Hei Long got up on stage during the assembly to confidently read out loud to his classmates, telling them how much he’s enjoying the program.
“I love reading with a dog named Billy. I like Billy. Billy is my favourite dog.”
Glenferrie Primary School has been part of the Story Dogs program for only a few months, however according to program coordinator and teacher, Skye Allen, the school has already seen an improvement in students’ engagement with reading.
“Students spend all week looking forward to their reading session with our dog volunteers, Murphy and Billy, along with their equally beautiful handlers,” says Allen.
“Story Dogs provides a fun, non-judgemental and caring environment for our students to enjoy reading, no matter their ability.”
This all comes as no surprise for Good Education Group CEO, Chis Lester, who first came across the program when his daughter took part at her school.
“I have seen the results of the Story Dogs program first-hand. Having tried and tested many strategies, Story Dogs was the most effective to encourage my daughter to read,” says Lester.
“Literacy is important for life-long learning and Story Dogs is such a simple but effective way to help any child gain confidence in reading. I’m glad that Good Education Group could help to support Story Dogs in extending their program to more students in need.”
The Story Dogs program is available to all primary schools – both state and private – and is free to all participating students. Participating students are usually in Year 2, between the ages of seven and eight and are chosen by the school. The organisation receives no government support and relies on school fundraisers, donations and sponsorship.
- Over 1,800 children helped each week.
- 359 Dog Teams volunteers
- 217 schools participating in the program nationally
- 57 per cent of Dog Teams fully sponsored
To learn more about the program visit www.storydogs.org.au.
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