Story Dogs to boost students’ love of reading

By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on September 11, 2020

STUDENTS at Yakamia Primary School will be treated to a captive audience to read to as of next week, with the introduction of Tanuki the reading dog as an honorary staff member.

Making up one half of the dog team at Story Dogs Albany, Tanuki the Keeshond will begin weekly visits to the school for a select group of students to encourage a love of reading.

Story Dogs Albany Facilitator Jen McRae, who spent 16 years as a school nurse, said the program is helping children Australia-wide, and hopes to see more educators take advantage of the dogs’ natural abilities to boost learning.

“You can see how dogs have such a great potential to be useful conduits for all sorts of different things,” she said.

“The reading aspect really spoke to me because you do have students that get to high school who don’t know how to read fluently.

“You’re able to support students with as much reading as they can when they’re younger to get that love of reading.

“With a dog, it kind of helps facilitate that, and from all the research that’s out there it really supports that.

“It helps open a door that might not have been for some kids.”

As of August, 510 dog teams have visited schools across Australia, with more than 2,000 students going through the program since its inception 10 years ago.

Yakamia Primary School Teacher Chelsey Norman said she was excited to see the benefits of dog-assisted reading for her students.

“It’s designed to really build a love around reading,” she said.

“Only a select few students are picked, so there’s an incentive to work hard on your reading skills.

“The dogs work as a calming tool and you can work on comprehension and reading skills through the handler by making it fun and building confidence.”

Ms McRae and Tanuki are currently the only Story Dogs duo in Albany.

However, there are hopes to see the program grow to service even more students and schools.

For more information or to express your interest in getting involved in the program, contact Jen McRae on 0457 573 668 or email jenm@storydogs.org.au