Reading dogs bring real results
An Australian researcher has enlisted the help of a friendly dog to get reluctant readers to have a go.
A well-regarded researcher, lecturer and former primary school teacher, Deakin University’s Dr Tony Chalkley is also the owner of a Delta Society-certified therapy dog named Squirt.
Tony and Squirt have toured primary school classrooms and witnessed some remarkable changes when children read books to Squirt.
“It's a little bit magical the way kids who are normally reluctant readers line up to read with Squirt the therapy dog,” says Tony.
“The simple act of patting and talking with the dog triggers the desire to share stories from the children's own 'pet history'.
“Most kids seem to start by talking about the animals they've owned, then they talk about life events that have happened with and because of these pets and, finally, sharing how they felt as a result.”
Often, Tony says, the floodgates of literary interest are flung open.
“What is it about reading to a canine friend that gets kids to pick the biggest book they can find?”
To find out why he has proposed a 12-month field study - named Read2Spot - to better understand the role and value of therapy animals in the everyday school life of children.
“Every week, something really fantastic happens when kids read to Squirt – their confidence just soars – and I'd like to find out why.”
He is seeking to raise just $8,400 to cover expenses like travel costs for therapy dogs, Honours students for project support, the purchase of reward stickers for kids and, of course, Shmackos for canine workers like Squirt.
The campaign ends on June 5.
The resulting data will be used to support existing pet and animal therapy programs, improve and expand the training of handlers, and develop new and innovative ways to develop literacy skills in the classroom.