A dog’s “tale”: Moray school pioneers new Reading with Dogs programme

It’s a dog’s life for a group of Moray school pupils, who are brushing up on their reading skills by taking part in story sessions with a friendly golden retriever as their audience.

Speyside High School in Aberlour is the first secondary school in Scotland to roll out the pioneering Reading With Dogs programme.

The project is designed to help children improve their literacy skills by offering them the chance to read aloud in front of a four-legged friend.

The 12-week scheme is in its infancy, but already teachers have said the confidence of the youngsters taking part has rocketed.

However, the five children insisted that much of the credit for their improvement belonged to blind 12-year-old retriever Brodie.

Support for learning teacher, Deidre Christenson-Main, said: “At first, the children thought we were kidding when we told them they would be reading to a dog.

“But it can be daunting reading aloud to an adult, as children can feel they are being judged if they need to take their time.

“The dogs make them more relaxed, they are already less hesitant in their reading and we are just a few weeks in.”

Headteacher Patricia Goodbrand first learned about Reading With Dogs online, and suggested the school became involved in setting up its own programme.

Librarian Jeremy Fernandez contacted the Elgin branch of the Canine Concern Scotland Trust, who told him they had just the dog for the job.

Brodie has worked as a “therapet” for years, helping students relieve exam stress and visiting hospitals and care homes to provide comfort.

But, after losing her sight over the past 18 months, she has scaled back her activities.

The books the children have read to her range from fairy tales to footballing biographies.

One S2 boy said: “When you’re reading to Brodie, no-one can interrupt you, and I didn’t feel like I was under pressure reading.”

A classmate of his added: “I thought it sounded a bit odd, and I didn’t know how it would be able to help me, but it’s made me more confident in reading.

The Canine Concern Scotland Trust’s Maureen Thomson added: “Brodie’s owner had been thinking about retiring her, but now she doesn’t have to. “Brodie is brilliant with things like this.”

(Therapet Brodie is owned by CCST Volunteer Helen Wilson)

Words & Pictures Courtesy of The Press & Journal

by Ben Hendry

This article appeared in “The Press & Journal” newspaper on 23 September 2016.

Link to item at The Press & Journal

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