Story Dogs program expanding across schools in South Perth

Wesley College Junior School students Davi Chapman and Anthony Piggott with Story Dogs Volunteer Glenda Coote and her five-year-old spoodle Abby. Front: Ruby Stampfl-MacDonald and Megan Vaughan. Pic: David Baylis d492850
Wesley College Junior School students Davi Chapman and Anthony Piggott with Story Dogs Volunteer Glenda Coote and her five-year-old spoodle Abby. Front: Ruby Stampfl-MacDonald and Megan Vaughan. Pic: David Baylis d492850

THE Story Dogs program designed to help students with reading will continue at Wesley College Junior School, and has been a welcome addition in 2019 at Collier Primary in Como.

Not-for-profit Story Dogs assists students with reading difficulties by providing a non-judgmental environment through sessions of reading to dogs.

Story Dogs volunteer Glenda Coote and her five-year-old spoodle Abby will return to Wesley College Junior School in Term 3 after taking a break this term.

Meanwhile Takumi the dog and her owner have started visiting Collier Primary twice a week this year.

Collier Primary’s new special visitor Takumi.

Collier Primary School principal Kevin Saunders said the Story Dogs program would be a permanent fixture for as long as the association could accommodate them.

“I find that the students really respond well to a passive listener,” he said.

“Each year, you get a different cohort of children who for whatever reason need to develop those links.

“The dog provides passive listening and a link for the child to gain confidence to be able to read to somebody or have an expression of language to the dog which is non-judgemental.”

Ms Coote said while Story Dogs was usually for students with reading difficulties who need one-on-one time, others could join.

“It’s not only for struggling readers, it could also be for kids who love reading and need a bit of extension or need that break from sensory overload,” she said.

“I’m a teacher as well but I haven’t got my teacher’s hat on and I’m not picking up their mistakes.

“So it’s actually a really good opportunity for them to read in a non-threatening environment.”

Ms Coote said the students have developed a special bond with Abby and would absent-mindedly pat her as they were reading to her.

“When Abby’s happy and relaxed she snuggles up to the kids and falls asleep,” she said.

Ms Coote said dogs who were calm, relaxed and obey their owners would be suitable to be a Story Dog.

“There are a lot of dogs out there that could be perfect story dogs but people don’t necessarily realise that,” she said.

To join Story Dogs, visit https://www.storydogs.org.au/how-to-volunteer.