Visiting Dog Helps Children To Read
We've just had an unusual guest in the Readathon office: one with four legs and a wet nose!
Pippa the dog and her owner Deborah Neame, from the charity Dogs Helping Kids, came to demonstrate how reading to dogs can improve children’s literacy skills. It is especially helpful to reluctant readers and to young readers who lack confidence and and enthusiasm, but all children of all ages may benefit.
Half Labrador, half Dalmation, Pippa is a naturally calm and comforting presence, but even so, extensive training is required to turn a suitable dog into a safe, consistent and purposeful DHK dog.
The training includes teaching the dogs to treat books and readers with interest, respect and undivided attention, and to tolerate children’s behaviour. DHK dogs must also learn to reward the young reader at the end of each session, such as pressing a button on a device that speaks a message and doing amusing tricks.
“It was easy to find young volunteers to help with Pippa’s demonstration!” explains Justine, Readathon's director.
Two boys from nearby Amberley Parochial Primary School, an avid Readathon supporter, took it in turns to read to Pippa.
Looking on, their Headmaster Pete Godfrey commented: “I was very impressed with this demonstration and can see how effective this approach would be within a school environment.”
Supporting children’s reading in primary and secondary schools is just part of a much wider educational and therapeutic brief for DHK, which was founded in North Devon by Tracey Berridge. A qualified professional Canine Behaviour Counsellor. Tracy earned her Master's Postgraduate Degree in 'Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling'. Her thesis about the effects of using dogs in the school environment identified tremendous benefits of introducing dogs into schools. These include teaching children non-violence, empathy, respect, kindness, love, responsibility, friendship and trust. In the long term, DHK aims to have a dog in every school in the UK. In the meantime, it is busy raising awareness, fundraising and recruiting and training suitable dogs.