Recruiting story dogs

STORIES: New Story Dogs volunteers Graham Gill, Helen Farrell, Pam Zubrinich, Story Dogs Whyalla Coordinator Bruce Muhlhan, Assessor Sophie Rosevear, Jill Warner and Story Dogs Managing Director Janine Sigley
STORIES: New Story Dogs volunteers Graham Gill, Helen Farrell, Pam Zubrinich, Story Dogs Whyalla Coordinator Bruce Muhlhan, Assessor Sophie Rosevear, Jill Warner and Story Dogs Managing Director Janine Sigley

Story Dogs have begun incorporating more dogs and their owners into the program, with the hopes to spread the benefit of a unique form of storytelling.

The initiative, which aims to make reading fun for children by giving them the chance to read to trained dogs, first started at Stuart Campus R-7 in Term 4 last year.

As a result of the positive effects it’s had on students, a total of four new teams of dogs and owners will be heading into new schools as part of Story Dogs.

These schools include Long Street Primary School, Nicolson Avenue Primary School and Fisk Street Primary School. An extra team will also be heading to Stuart Campus R-7.

The new owners and dogs were recently assessed in the Ada Ryan Gardens, with the help of Story Dogs Dog Assessor Sophie Rosevear.

“My role is to make sure the dogs are the right temperament and the handlers have good control of their dog, so that they’re ready to go into schools,” she said.

“So far I’ve met some lovely dogs with great personalities. It’s a fantastic program.”

Ms Rosevear said the testing involved assessing the dog’s personality, and ensuring they are tolerant of excited students while not getting over-excited themselves.

“We look at whether they can tolerate an extended period where they have to be completely relaxed. I’m confident these new teams are going to do really well," she said.

Whyalla Coordinator Bruce Muhlhan, who took his dog Newton into Stuart Campus R-7 last year, said the program had been ‘going wonderfully’.

“The response has been fantastic, a number of students went up several reading levels in one term. The dogs immediately help them to relax,” he said.

“The fear disappears and the students get into a nice learning environment. Then they’re ready to give reading a go, it’s a beautiful experience.

“Most of the new schools can’t wait. Some of them are asking for two dog teams!”

Managing Director Janine Sigley said recent NAPLAN test results showed there was a big demand for a method to improve students’ reading skills. “There’s a lot of kids who are struggling with reading. The more dogs we can get into schools the better.”