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Meet the reading dogs adding some animal magic to help youngsters learn to love books

FOR some children reading aloud to their peers is a scary prospect.

Whether they struggle with their words or need help to overcome shyness, taking part in literacy lessons can be daunting.

But one Glasgow primary has found a novel solution with the listening ears and non-judgemental reactions of... reading dogs.

Langfaulds Primary introduced Old English Sheepdog Willow and Skye, a Border Collie, to pupils last year and the results are now speaking for themselves.

Reece Cameron, a P7 from Dalmuir, said he and his friend love seeing the two dogs come in to their school

The 11-year-old said: "It's relaxing and it's fun and it has improved my reading a lot.

"It makes you more confident because it's not that the dogs are going to judge you and sometimes I do worry in class that I will be judged."

Reece, whose favourite book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, added: "The dogs are really good and don't jump around.

"Everyone in school loves seeing Skye and Willow."

Willow, eight, has been Therapet for four years while Skye, nine, joined the Therapet team two years ago. The dogs, who are constantly supervised by their owners, Sharon Fergus with Skye and James Macdonald with Willow, are highly trained.

Charity bosses look for dogs who are calm and obedient to become Therapets and Willow and Skye fit the bill perfectly.

At the beginning of a reading session the dogs settle down on the floor and children know they are listening when they rest their heads on their paws.

Head teacher of the Drumchapel school Vhairi Cochrane, who leads the 100 pupil school, said a new member of staff, her deputy head, had recommended the idea as it had been popular in her previous school. Mrs Cochrane said: "The children have greatly benefited from having the dogs in school and their reading is really coming on. "You can see them grow in confidence and it helps them with reading in front of adults and their peers.

"Pupils who would not have been able to do that before are now comfortable doing it, it has a distinct effect."

Therapets must be at least one year old but there is no upper age limit on the dogs and cats who take part.

James Macdonald, an area representative for Canine Concern Scotland Trust, which organises the Therapet service, said the charity looks for dogs with an even temperament.

He said: "The reading with dogs programme is only 18 months old so it is relatively new compared to our service going into hospital and care homes.

"But so far it is proving really successful with around 20 schools in Glasgow taking part.

"It is wonderful to see the children grow in confidence each week as they get used to reading to their dog.

"It can be very calming for children, particularly children with autism, and we are very pleased to be seeing the success of the service."

Picture above; Therapet Skye with two pupils from Langfauds Primary School

Picture below; Therapet Willow with one pupil from Langfauds Primary School

This article appeared in the Evening Times 8th January 2018.

Written by Catriona Stewart

Picture by Jamie Simpson

“(pictures property of the photographer, all rights reserved, unauthorised use prohibited)

Link to full online edition at Evening Times

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