Posts Tagged ‘Dog Therapy’

I’ve written a few posts over the last year about ‘Reading Dogs’ and how they can assist chidren having difficulty reading.  With those programs being US based, I’ve often wondered whether there was anything similar happening here in Australia.

To my delight, a parent at my school – thanks Nancy! – has alerted me to Reading Labs, an Australian initiative which sets out to boost the reading confidence of young students.

As stated on its web page, this program aims:

  • To improve the literacy rate of children with reading difficulties through an innovative ‘reading to dogs’ program.
  • To lay a foundation for a lifetime of learning and ultimately enhance the quality of the children’s lives.

Launched back in 2009 at Clayton North Primary School in Victoria by well known and much loved Australian author Andy Griffiths, the byline on the program’s webpage tells us that:

‘Reading Labs’, are the well trained helpers reeling in reluctant readers – book, line and sinker.  Reading Labs is an innovative educational program where Assistance Dogs in the community visit schools with their team mate (recipient), helping students with reading difficulties.

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has used dogs to help their students develop their reading.

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I’ve come across a number of write-ups in the last few months about the use of dogs to help children develop their reading skills.   It seems that there are a proliferation of programs in the States.

Reading with Rover is another one.   Operating in Washington State, this photo, presumably of Rover, creates a great inspiration to pull that book off the shelf and start reading!

Students with reading difficulties are able to read to Rover.  As a non-demanding and non-critical listener, children with reading difficulties who are normally hesitant to read in front of others are eager to read to Rover!

The Reading with Rover website outlines how people can get their dogs involved in the program.   It also spells out in some detail the purpose behind the program:



Reading with Rover is a community-based literacy program volunteering in the schools, bookstores and libraries in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. It is our goal, as volunteers and founders of Reading with Rover, to make the “Rover” program available to all schools, reading and learning facilities that would like to enhance their reading programs.

Our Mission: To inspire children to discover the joy of reading while developing
literacy skills and confidence in a safe environment using Reading With Rover Dogs.”

If there are any programs like this running in Australia, I’m yet to hear of them.  My experience with both children and dogs tells me that a dog therapy program focused on reading could be of great benefit.   Anyone interested to start one up?   I’m sure that lots of pointers can be taken from our American buddies who’ve already embraced this in a big way!

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Some of you will know that I’m a total sucker when it comes to dogs.   And the idea of having one in the library ….. well ….. I’m all for it!

So when I came across an article about Therapy Dogs assisting children with reading problems in The Morning Journal, an online newspaper from Ohio, my heart kind of melted.  Trained in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, otherwise known by its acronym – R.E.A.D. – dogs have been taught to be interested in books.  Quoting the owner of the dog showcased in the accompanying video, Genie Taggert says:

“The idea is that the students can read in front of the dog and not be embarrassed or feel inadequate,” Taggart said. “The dog isn’t going to judge them.”

Having my curiosity piqued by this article, I went on the hunt to see if Dog Therapy was operating anywhere else.  Sure enough, I discovered this great video produced in Vermont which highlights the impact that Pepper the Dalmation has been having on a range of children who have reading difficulties.   The rave comments by both teachers and young students certainly sound convincing.  Just some of them claim that the dog:

  • provides a different experience to reading in front of adults
  • allows the reader to build their self confidence
  • is a non-threatening, calm, patient, non-judgemental listener
  • lends moral support
  • doesn’t laugh, ridicule or give negative responses when the reader makes mistakes
  • provides an audience for a struggling reader
  • enables the reader to relax therefore making reading more enjoyable
  • reduces feeling of nervousness or embarrassment

I’d be very interested to hear if any of you have used dogs in a therapeutic way to help students overcome their reading difficulties.  Meantime, take the time to view this video about Pepper the Dalmation:

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Just a few days ago, I wrote about cats in the Library.  Well…. hold  your breath!  Meet Monty, who in addition to living in a basket behind the circulation desk, will be available for loan to students at Yale University Law School!

Holding his very own catalogue entry, the description for Monty reads:
1 dog (border terrier mix) : brown hair, 21 lbs. ; 33 cm at shoulder
Notes on the catalogue entry state:
Monty circulates for 30 minute periods
Graduate of Puppy School, 2000 (with honors), Certified Therapy Dog, 2010

Intended as a proactive move by the Library to help students reduce their stress levels, Monty will be available for “check out” for 30 minutes periods in the same way that books are checked out.  Students at the Yale Law School Library have been enthusiastically signing up to check out Monty a “certified library therapy dog”.  Reported extensively on the web, abc NEWS/Health quoted the hope of law librarian, Blair Kauffman, “that the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be a positive addition to current services offered by the library”.

This reminds of a the wonderful maintenance worker in a school I was working in some years ago, who had a cute Jack Russell who followed him around the school as he completed his many and varied chores.  On the occasions they visited the library this cute little dog would bound in with verve and energy that never failed to evoke smiles of joy on the faces of Library patrons!

Hmmmmm….   Maybe our school library needs a four legged friend as either a resident or as an item for loan?

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