Dogs give double the reading support

Tucker from Carramar, Jaxon Sym (Year 8), Jessica Boyd (Year 7) and Tucker from Duncraig.
Tucker from Carramar, Jaxon Sym (Year 8), Jessica Boyd (Year 7) and Tucker from Duncraig.

STUDENTS and staff at St Stephen’s School are seeing double.

Not only do the school’s two black labrador reading dogs look the same and have the same job at each campus, they are also both named Tucker.

They became reading dogs at the school within months of each other this year, with Duncraig learning enrichment curriculum leader Toni Mills saying they could not believe the coincidence.

The reading dog program at the school’s Duncraig campus started in 2016 as a collaboration between the learning enrichment and English departments, with Tucker the third dog to visit students on a regular basis.

Tucker’s owner Karen Stitt said her dog, who has a very relaxed temperament, is a calming influence for students who need a little extra encouragement to concentrate on their reading.

“Tucker listens attentively as individual students spend time reading aloud and stroking him as he lays beside them,” Ms Stitt said.

“Even the most reluctant reader will continue to engage with their book if it means extending their time with Tucker.”

Year 8 students Saffron Kestel, Matthew Morrison and Charlie Shepherd with Tucker from Duncraig.

After hearing about Duncraig’s Tucker, Carramar science teacher Sarah Stockton-Rice introduced her own labrador Tucker as a certified reading dog.

“The students really enjoy having him there; they are calm and settled when he’s around,” she said.

Mrs Mills said she had also seen considerable changes in students’ approach to learning.

“The biggest improvement we have seen is in the attitude towards reading the students have,” she said.

“Working with Tucker in a non-threatening, non-judgemental reading environment gives students permission to have a go, to not worry if things aren’t exactly right and to challenge themselves to continue.

“Once the students have this positivity and success around reading, the improvements in their reading pace, comprehension and engagement come as a matter of consequence.”

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