There is a reading revolution taking place in the Tweed region of northern NSW and dogs of all breeds including greyhounds are playing their part. Story Dogs is a program where dogs of suitable temperament and obedience visit primary schools with their handlers who are trained in basic literary education. Children who have been selected by the school as having literacy issues, will have one-on-one sessions where they read to the dog. During the sessions a child is able to relax and have fun reading at their own pace to a calm friendly dog without being judged or criticised. As a result they try harder, their literacy and communication skills improve and their confidence builds.
Story Dogs is based on a successful literacy program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs which was launched in the USA. In 2009 the program was founded in Murwillumbah and now consists of many dog and handler teams who regularly visit schools in the region.
Babette Angell is a Story Dog volunteer and shares her experiences with her greyhound Sammy.
“After reading about a new volunteer reading program that involved dogs it was decided that Sammy (Mister Jaydee) would be perfect. He often sat next to a friend’s daughter while she was learning to read and seemed interested in books.
Story Dogs organisers Leah and Janine trailed the program at Murwillumbah East Primary School with two dogs in 2009. Story Dogs rapidly took off in schools in the Tweed Shire with volunteer dog teams in 21 schools by the end of 2011. Story Dogs Inc hopes to expand into the Lismore Shire in 2012.
To become a Story Dog Sammy visited Leah and Janine and met another Story Dog with the volunteer to discuss the program and suitability before being invited to apply. All breeds are accepted, dogs must be over one year old and have to be registered with the Council, micro chipped, fully vaccinated, undergo a vet health check and good with children. The dog must be owned by the volunteer for at least six months. Volunteers need to be available two hours every week to visit their local primary school with their dog to assist Grade 2 children become more confident in their reading skills. Each child has 20 minute reading with the dog, who is non judgemental and helps the child to relax and enjoy reading.
Sammy attended dog obedience school sessions for eight weeks to learn to socialise with other breeds and then he passed his Story Dog test. Information about the test and a volunteer kit can be downloaded from the website. Leah says that Greyhounds and other hound groups were perfect breeds for the program because they are settled, gentle and very contained. She would welcome more greyhounds into the program if possible.”
Visit the Story Dogs website for more information www.storydogs.org.au.