AN OLD DOG TEACHING CHILDREN NEW TRICKS

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Reading is an essential life skill and for most of us, learning to read is fun – opening up whole new worlds of stories, knowledge and ideas. For some kids though, getting the right start can be hard – if they lack confidence, feel left behind by their class room peers or face other developmental challenges.

Story Dogs is a non-profit literacy program that provides individualised reading sessions for children in their early years of primary school.

New research and pet therapy programs are confirming what many pet owners have always felt – that the human-animal bond is good for our health, our families and our communities.

Pets are helping us to stay fit and to recover from illness more quickly (www.petpartners.org).  Increasingly, they are also helping people with physical disabilities or mental health issues, such as PTSD or autism, to reach their full potential (www.assistancedogs.org.au).

Pets can also help our kids to read.  Started in Australia 10 years ago, Story Dogs has helped hundreds of children across Australia.  Their mission is to make reading fun for children so they can become confident life-long readers.

Each week, 13 year old chocolate Labrador ‘Brenner’ and her handler Anne Paltridge, a retired Librarian visit St Margaret Mary’s Primary School in Spotswood, to spend time with selected children who need a bit of extra help.  The individualised sessions encourage the children to read (they read to Brenner, explaining what’s happening in the story and reading aloud), building their confidence and motivation.

“Brenner is a real people dog” said Anne.  “She just loves to sit with the kids, and it’s wonderful to see how the children progress through their participation in the program.”

Principal of St Margaret Mary’s, Ms Andrea Richards was pleased with the success of the program in 2018, and was enthusiastic about the school participating again this year.

7-year old student Lily says she enjoys her time with Brenner and says that Brenner’s favourite stories are the ones with dogs in them.

Anne Paltridge, Inner Western Suburbs of Melbourne Co-ordinator would be pleased to hear from people (and their dogs) interested in participating in this program. She can be contacted on 9327 2082 or 0434260998. For more information about Story Dogs visit www.storydogs.org.au

Brenner is sponsored by International Customs and Logistics in Tullamarine (www.ical.com.au)

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