Anna Wilson, author of books including The Smug Pug and Pup
Reading aloud and storytelling have always been very important
to me. As an author, I go into schools and see how reading stories
aloud can help build confidence and improve literacy skills.
Reading to dogs is a fantastic, innovative idea - it will help
boost the confidence of children who are nervous of reading aloud
in front of a class, for example, and will encourage a lifelong
love of books and reading, I'm sure. I frequently read to my own
dog when I am trying out new passages of writing, so I can highly
Andrea Whitwham, Pets As Therapy (P.A.T) volunteer at
Goldington Green Lower School Nurture Group, Bedford,
I found the whole experience absolutely amazing. These little
ones who all had complex needs, one way or another, really
blossomed over the seven weeks of our visits. All of them had
emotional needs and came from difficult family backgrounds, and the
nurture group was a way of helping them to come to terms with
feelings and emotions as well as help them with their work. One
little boy did not engage with us at all at the beginning but for
him I think this programme has had the most impact. He was
transformed from a shy, reserved little boy into a smiling happy
child, eager to read and listen and work hard. He was the only one
who brought his book every week. He would even read aloud, even if
he was not supposed to! The teacher at the start of the programme
said she thought it was a bonkers idea but she is now completely
Diana Vickery, children's author and creator of the 'The
Magical Journeys of Swankypants'
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in Nottingham at a
library, working with three groups of children aged six and
seven, with READ's Tony and his wonderful
dog, Danny. It was my book that he shared with the children
that day and it was wonderful to see how they responded to reading
with Danny, and they were all eager to try.
To encourage children to read by using a dog is an
innovative method and Tony is an incredible man devoting
his life trying to help our children to be proficient at reading
Mrs Lockwood and Mrs Fitsimmons, teachers at the Seashells
Nurture Group at St James' Primary School, St Helens,
When the nurture group first opened, a neighbouring teacher
recommended a dog called Chief to visit the school to spend time
with one particular child who had communication difficulties. As
soon as Chief began to visit our nurture group, the staff quickly
realised the value of his time spent not only with the child with
communications difficulties, but also the benefits he brought to
the other children in the group.
Since the time, Chief has become a firm favourite with children
of all ages in the Seashells Nurture Group. Chief has helped the
children to develop confidence in speaking socially, as whilst he
is here the children are encouraged to chat with Chris (the P.A.T.
volunteer) whilst cuddling and stroking Chief. Chief has a very
calming influence on some of the children who find compliance in
mainstream school very difficult. They have benefitted enormously
from Chief's visits and are learning to control their tone of
voice, sit calmly and show respect, whilst at the same time being
able to express their emotions in a safe and caring
Chief sometimes experiences children who, because of emotional
difficulties, have verbal outbursts and display feelings of anger
and frustration in a physical way. During these times, Chief
remains quiet and undisturbed and with his calming influence these
children are able to regain their composure more easily than if he
had not been there. Children ask all the time when Chief and Chris
are next visiting and this has become a regular slot on our
Viviane Schwarz, author of Timothy and The Strong Pyjamas
commented on her own experience
I know from my own experience how hard it can be to read to
other people, and I am grateful to the kind animals who happily
listened to me with rapt attention while I practised and learned at
home. When I was in school, I could not read without a stammer, and
it was a frightening ordeal that got worse every time. I hope Bark
and Read will help many children to have a better learning
experience, especially those who don't have a pet of their own to
help them out.
Andrew Cope, author of Spy Dog
I'm a great believer in reading aloud and, as the author ofSpy
Dog, I always run ideas past my trusty mutt, Lara. The Bark and
Read Foundation is a great way of facilitating school and library
visits with dogs, and anything that encourages children to want to
read, particularly aloud, is extremely positive.
Gill Bromley, Strategic Manager of Libraries and Archives at
Kent County Council
I was working to develop a Kent Approach to Literacy and Reading
when I first heard about a Reading Dogs scheme from a friend in the
USA. I was inspired by the idea and made enquiries in the UK
to find out whether we had anything similar. I soon got to
know Tony Nevett and his dog, Scotts who came to Kent to do a
demonstration. It was such a success that we now have a small
team of willing volunteers working in an increasing number of
schools. There is growing evidence that this approach really
helps to engage reluctant readers and raise standards of
literacy. Long may it continue!
Debbie Jones, teaching assistant at Westfields Junior School,
All 20 reluctant readers who took part in the pilot scheme felt
more confident about reading afterwards.
"Remarkably 60% of the children improved their reading age by 3
months or more in just 6 weeks, and all the pupils' reading age
advanced by at least 2 months."
Vicky Burn, P.A.T. volunteer at Elliston Nursery, Cleethorpes,
The children are aged from three to five and LOVE Bonnie. She is
bringing on their vocabulary really well and a couple of children
who have speech defects are forgetting their problems when they
talk to Bonnie. She is also used as an incentive for them - as the
children that have been very well behaved and polite will be able
to sort out her water bowl and mat - and they all want that big
job! Absolutely nothing worries Bonnie and one little boy
accidentally trod quite hard on her two front paws and there was no
reaction at all apart from a wince!
Comments from the children at Elliston Nursery
Georgie - "When I am reading, Bonnie looks at the pictures and
she likes me."
Holly - "Bonnie makes me feel really happy when I read to her.
Bonnie kisses me."
Kane - "I love Bonnie. Bonnie loves me to read to her."
Corben - "I read to her and she likes it and she licks my hand
and lets me brush her."
Charlie - "When I am reading to her, she really listens."
Jake - "I love Bonnie a million times. She is adorable."
Jennifer Reddecliff, P.A.T volunteer at Niton School, Niton,
Isle of Wight
We have been going for four weeks now and Holly is really
beginning to form a relationship with each child. The children seem
to be growing in confidence and look forward to their time with
Holly. Some have behaviour difficulties and Holly acts as a calming
influence as she has such a gentle nature.
Sally Marsh, P.A.T volunteer at Bunbury School, Tarporley,
It is the highlight of the children's week and one little boy
who does not really talk went back after reading to Bob, stood up
and told the class what he had done, with the biggest smile on his
Ian Burley, Library Development Officer based at Tamworth
Library in Staffordshire
Last year a friend of mine came in to the library and asked me
if I had seen the article on BBC Breakfast News about Kent
Libraries using reading dogs to engage reluctant readers. I thought
this sounded like an interesting idea and asked my manager if I
could pursue it, to which she agreed. After a bit of digging on the
Internet I found Tony Nevett and his dog Danny, and contacted Tony
to see if there was any way he would do a pilot session for us at
Glascote Library near Tamworth. Tony happily agreed and the session
took place at Glascote Library in February 2010, working with two
local schools. In addition to Tony and Danny, Kelly Bakewell also
came along, with her dog, Batman. Both schools were delighted with
the pilot session and I have since found funding to enable us to
run two projects, each of six weeks duration, again with Tony,
working with four schools in the Tamworth area. We are thrilled to
have the opportunity of using such an innovative scheme to engage
any youngsters who feel that they would benefit from extra support
and encouragement with their reading.'
Rob Lamerton, Library Assistant at Lending Library - North
Devon Library & Record Office
The dogs and handlers of Dogs Helping Kids (DHK) have been a
regular part of our lives at Barnstaple library for about a year
now, and the difference they make to the children that they work
with is plain for all to see, and more than a little astonishing.
We've seen children who would come into the library to use the
computers, do a bit of colouring or play with the soft toys, but
who would go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid actually
cracking the spine of a book, usually with a comment along the
lines of "it's too hard," "I can't do it" or "I'll get it wrong."
To see the change in these same children after they have had a few
sessions with a dog from DHK, to see them become confident and
enthusiastic readers, is remarkable. The sessions really do help
them to lose their fear of making a mistake, which in turn allows
them to approach reading as something that can be enjoyed, rather
than a stressful test of ability with a definite pass/fail
condition attached to each and every word. Good work all, keep it