Reading for dogs

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In some areas of the country (and, presumably, in some other countries as well), dogs are invited into schools to help children learn to read, as well as helping with various other aspects of their education. Apparently this can really help the children (particularly those who may be struggling), to concentrate and improve in many different areas.

When I heard about this, I googled it and came across a website called www.dogshelpingkids.co.uk This is a UK-based charity that helps trained dogs to work with children in schools, for both educational and therapeutic purposes. Their website says that their aim is to have a ‘Dogs Helping Kids’ dog in every school in the country, with the aim of teaching empathy, trust, respect and non-violence, amongst other things.

Apparently, their dogs undergo a three year training programme and pass eight assessments (each one more difficult that the last), before receiving their certificate. Even once qualified, the dogs still have to undergo an annual assessment, to make sure that their skills are still up-to-scratch.

So – what do these dogs do when they go into a school? According to the website, they offer invaluable support to children, especially those with special needs, as they go through their school careers. The dogs’ roles are varied, but include –

‘Classroom Canines’ – who just ‘chill out’ in the classroom while the children have their lessons, and provide a calming influence (this role sounds ideally suited to my dog, who specialises in ‘chilling out’, as you will see from the above picture),

‘Reward Canines’ – whose presence acts as a reward, whereby children who have behaved well can be rewarded by being allowed to spend time with the school dog at break times,

‘Therapy Canines’ – who work one-to-one with children who may have been bullied, abused, or otherwise have gone through difficult times,

‘Listening Canines’ – who listen to children read. This is the part that I was particularly interested in, and I learnt that the way that dogs listen without being judgemental can provide a lot of confidence to new readers.

Dogs do undoubtedly enjoy a good story. In my house the dog frequently enjoys a story, read to him by one or other of us, and (although some may say that he is a tad spoilt), we all enjoy reading to him as much as he enjoys listening. Just watching him roll onto his back (the pose he goes into when he is at his most relaxed), as someone reads aloud to him, in his or her best ‘sing-song’ voice, seems to be as calming for the person doing the reading as it is for the dog!

And what stories does he enjoy best? Well, as I discussed in a previous blog post back in 2017 (see https://catherinerosevear.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/once-upon-a-time/) he particularly likes ‘The Magic Porridge Pot’, from the Ladybird series, but he also enjoys pretty much anything. And a good thing too, really, as his main ‘9 to 5’ job in my house, is to listen (with as much positive feedback as a Tibetan Terrier can muster), to me, reading my own work-in-progress!

 

Please see the www.dogshelpingkids.co.uk website for more information about this fantastic charity!

Knife juggling and other skills for authors

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A couple of weeks ago I went to an event at my children’s school, at which an author, Julian Sedgwick, had been invited in to give a talk to the children and to give out some literacy prizes. As I did some school visits with my own self-published books, I tagged along with my daughter, keen to pick up some tips. Sadly, the dog wasn’t included in the invite, but after giving me ‘the look’, he agreed to stay at home and catch up on some sleep – which is probably what he would have done if I’d stayed at home with him, anyway!

I must say, listening to Julian Sedgwick was an inspiring experience, although I’m not sure that I’d be able to replicate everything he did, on my own school visits.

Q. Can I stand up at the front and tell everyone about my books?

A. Yes, I can do that.

Q. Can I tell some stories about my own school days?

A. I probably can do that, so long as I get plenty of time to remember them, first!

Q. Can I read out some short passages from my newest book, to the assembled throng?

A. Yes, I can definitely do that.

Q. Can I give out prizes?

A. Yes, I’ve done that before and I can do it again.

Q. Can I sit at a table and sign books?

A. Yes, I think I’ve got that covered.

Q. Can I juggle apples?

A. No, but given huge amounts of time, commitment, and a lot of apples, it’s just about within the realms of possibility that I could add that to my repertoire.

Q. Can I juggle knives?

A. What…?!

Yes – that’s right, folks – knife juggling was included in Julian’s event. He told us that as a child he’d always had a fancy for working in a circus, and so, as an author, he’d not only included a circus in one of his books, but had also mastered some of the necessary skills – knife juggling (and apparently also fire breathing), being among them. It was clear that in the opinions of the children present, this skill lifted his talk far above the ordinary, and, I suspect, also helped them to listen more carefully to what he had to say about the importance of reading and writing, that accompanied the juggling.

I was very impressed by his talk (and the juggling, of course), and at the end of the evening we bought a signed copy of his latest book, which we’ve since discovered is really good.

And here’s a plea, folks – if you go to any author events, please take some money along with you and consider buying a signed book at the end of the event. The author will really appreciate it!

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With many thanks to the author Julian Sedgwick for a great talk and some impressive juggling, and for permission to reproduce the above two images. You can find out more about Julian and his books on Twitter at @julianaurelius, and on Facebook at Julian Sedgwick Author.