Mere Green Primary School

An uplifting tail! Dog lends an ear to young readers

Friday 11th December, 2020

It’s no shaggy dog story – children are going ‘peanuts’ for paw-fect classmate Snoopy, who is bringing added bounce to pupil’s reading and wellbeing at Mere Green Primary School.

The Cocker Spaniel pooch is causing quite the fuss during his weekly visit under the ‘Read2Dogs’ scheme, which aims to help improve literacy skills in children by developing their confidence, interest and enjoyment in reading.

The cute canine is on loan from Pets As Therapy (PAT) – a national charity that focuses on enhancing health and wellbeing in the community through the visits of trusted volunteers and their well-behaved animals to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes and schools.

Volunteer Linda Catlin first visited Mere Green two and a half years ago with her Springer Spaniel Jerry, mainly working with children in years 1, 2 and 3. The children would read aloud to the dog and give him lots of fuss. Now she’s back with Snoopy, who is making quite the mark at school.

Debbie Cox, a year 3 teaching assistant at Mere Green Primary School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), said:

We all adore Snoopy. He is a lovely dog who brings so much joy to the school. He is helping children to build their reading skills and in many other ways too.”

Read2Dogs has been shown to help children develop literacy skills and confidence, through the calming effect of the dog’s presence on children and because the dog will listen to the children read without being judgemental. This comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading and provides them with the confidence needed to read aloud.

The scheme is proving to be a big success at Mere Green, which is seeing improvements in literacy across the school. Mrs Cox explained how children are connecting with PAT dogs in a positive way. She said:

Linda worked with an older child who doesn’t normally talk to adults. But after a visit from a reading dog, the child read aloud and even chatted to both of us. It was remarkable.

The impact of these pets is really powerful. Children benefit emotionally from having contact with the dog as well as getting extra reading practise. This has been particularly important this year when children came back into school after their period of home learning to meet Snoopy – it was a wonderful experience. It’s fair to say that when he wags his little tail, he speaks for all of us!”