Story Dogs creating reading magic for Perth kids

Story Dog volunteer for Safety Bay Primary, Fiona Saligari with her dog Java and son Kade (3).
Story Dog volunteer for Safety Bay Primary, Fiona Saligari with her dog Java and son Kade (3).

THERE is something very soothing and comforting about being read too – and when combined between children and animals the experience for both is magical.

Story Dogs is a not-for-profit group running a literary program that is genius in its simplicity – children read books out loud to a dog.

Its function is to improve children’s reading and communication skills using dogs that are accredited for the task.

The dog and its handler visit various schools and the dogs give gentle, non-judgemental encouragement to young readers.

The child then feels relaxed and calm, creating the perfect state of mind for learning.

It was formed in 2009 in Murwillumbah, NSW by Leah Sheldon and Janine Sigley and has gone nationwide with teams in every state.

Story Dogs came to WA three years ago, starting in Waroona, then Mandurah, Rockingham and Kwinana.

Kwinana coordinator Christina McCauley said dogs provide a great audience for children to learn to read without fear of being criticised or laughed at.

Last weekend some 60 volunteers from WA and SA converged on the Navy Club with dogs in tow to reflect on the group’s success.

“Co-founder Janine Quigley was there and spoke of how the group is growing exponentially in WA and helped so many children not just learn to read but enjoy it,” she said.

“It was a great day and amazing to see so many dogs – there were at least 40 together in the one place.

“They were strangers to each other yet they behaved so well and were calm.

“It really was a credit to our all of our dogs and volunteers.”

“We are very grateful to the Navy Club for allowing us to use their grounds for the event – not too many places would allow 40 plus dogs in one place.”

Mrs McCaulay and her labrador Jasmine help children from St Vincent’s and Honeywood Primary Schools to read.