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!