Thursday, 27 March 2014

Never work with children and animals?

Dogs help young children to read

By Lucy and Lauren


At the Phoenix Primary School in Gedling, they have decided to bring in local dogs that are trained (by owners – simple commands such as sit, heel and lie down) to sit with the students that are practising or learning to read. Many children and adults sometimes feel nervous about speaking or reading in public.  Children that struggle to read are encouraged to read in front of dogs. This is because dogs understand and they can figure out facial expressions.

P.A.T stands for Pets as Therapy. It was founded in 1983.  They take a dog that their owner has brought in, and take out the dog on a walk/test. To pass the test, the dog must be well behaved. Also, the walker will drop a metal object on the hard surface to create a loud noise. This is called the loud noise test.

Mr and Mrs Smith (an ex English teacher from The West Bridgford School) have a P.A.T dog, he is called Storm. Here is a picture of him with his owners:

Mrs Smith, an owner of a P.A.T dog quotes: “My dog didn't react to the noise; he just looked around and carried on. Fortunately, my dog passed the test.”

We then asked Mrs Smith if she enjoyed doing it, she said “definitely, because the dogs won’t correct you when you’re reading. And it’s interesting. Afterwards, the children stroke the dog on the head”.

Then our news reporter Lauren asked Mr Smith: is it worth the time and effort? He replies saying: “Yes, it’s nice to see them progressing and getting the opportunities that we got when we were younger.”

The P.A.T dogs are kept on their leads and are under control by Pets as Therapy volunteers. The volunteer will introduce themselves and the dog; they will then tell the student about the dogs name, breed, age and what it enjoys. Also, they will inform the student about what P.A.T does and what the dog will bring to them.

The students are told that the dogs love to hear stories read to them. At the end of every session the child is able to stroke the dog. This is a big reward for them.

This is Storm, adopted from The Retired Greyhound Trust

We interviewed a Teaching assistant from the Phoenix Primary School we asked her some questions:

Do you think having a P.A.T dog in school helps the students, if so why? “Yeah, I think it does because the children want to read more and they look forward to coming into school”.

We then asked, have you had any problems with the dogs? She replied – “there have been no problems with the dogs”.

Do you think that people at your school enjoy doing it, if so why? “The children really enjoy it and they like to see the dogs”.

Is it a waste of time? “It is not a waste of time at all; it encourages the children to read more”.

Lucy interviewed a teacher at our school, this is what she thinks – “I think it might be really beneficial to those individual students with those difficulties or those students who are really nervous or find reading a huge challenge. I’m not that sure about the practicality about having dogs in a school, particularly somewhere like the West Bridgford school, which has over 1, 500 students, and if you add dogs to the situation, I’m not sure how productive or successful that would be. Maybe on a one to one basis, whether it is tutorials or something like that. It might be really beneficial”.


News reporter Lauren questioned the assistant head teacher/director of learning, Mr C Turner and he said: “Well, reading is really important for every young person. Lots of children feel under pressure when they read out loud, it can be quite nerve-wracking. And it gives them more confidence. I think obviously there’s a need for children to understand how to read properly and naturally, any animal is not going not be able to provide those skills. But I think there is a possibility for it amongst a whole host of other things that put into place to try and help children.

If you would like to find out more information please go to the pets as therapy website:

Many children have improved their reading. We think that this is a great idea because the young people that use this love having the dogs around when reading.



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