In the most deprived areas of Scotland in 2018, just 59% of P7 pupils met the expected standards in literacy. This compared to 83% in the most affluent communities. The David Doig Foundation awarded Canine Concern Scotland grant funding to bolster their Reading with Dogs programme. This fascinating programme was established to help young children feel more confident reading.
Children are encouraged to read aloud to dogs – who are never judgemental or critical – so they feel less self-conscious and stressed as they practise. This comforting environment helps the children feel at ease and nurtures a love of reading, with many becoming more willing to read at home. Quantitative evaluation has already demonstrated positive evidence of the impact on reading skills, showing the reading ages of children who participated improved on average by just over six months in a six week block of lessons.
At Wallace Well Primary School, Robroyston, children read to Willow, an Old English Sheepdog - an undeniably friendly audience. Since introducing Willow to their pupils, teachers have seen notable improvements in reading ability, as well as increased focus and confidence when reading aloud in class. Not surprisingly, Willow is a welcome visitor and the pupils look forward to reading with her. She’s become very much a part of school life. ‘It’s the only day my daughter willingly wants to come to school,’ said one parent. ‘My son smiles and is happy – he is over the moon. After school he comes home and talks to me all about it, without me having to ask questions,’ said another.
It’s safe to say that Reading with Dogs is a resounding success, resulting in children’s enjoyment and confidence in reading – and a fun day out for Willow and her companions across Scotland.