Reading to Dogs Program for children | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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21 April, 2017

Reading to Dogs Program for children

Two young girls read books to Ambassador Dogs, Milo & Finn

These school holidays, children cuddled up and read a story to a furry friend as part of a Reading to Dogs program at Moorebank Sports Club.

Not only was the sight of children reading to companion dogs, Milo and Finn, adorable, but the program at Manta Ray, a kids club situated in Moorebank Sports Club, also had a serious side.

“Research has shown that reading to dogs can provide children with many benefits such as emotional and social skills,” Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Pets As Therapy Coordinator, Sam O'Keeffe said.

A young girl scratches the tummy of Labrador Milo as he lies on a pile of books

“Reading to Dogs programs have gained popularity overseas because of the far-reaching benefits,” she said. “When reading to a dog, some children feel that it becomes less difficult for them to be able to read aloud at school and it also encourages them to start reading more often at home, especially to their pets.”

“The emotional benefits also play a big role in the reading to dogs program. Most children really enjoy reading to a dog as they know the dogs won’t judge if a word is mispronounced.”

Finding dogs with a perfect calm nature to participate in the program was easy for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, who have run a Pets As Therapy (PAT) companion dog program for more than 30 years.

Two young girls read books to Labradors, Milo and Finn

The program places carefully selected companion dogs with people who may be disadvantaged due to age, illness disability or isolation at no cost to that person.

“PAT dogs can play a particularly important role in the emotional and physical development of children, by providing a source of love and companionship,” Sam said.

On the day, each child read to Milo and Finn for 15 minutes, while they gave the four-legged friends a scratch behind the ear and a gentle pat.

Calinda Kirschner, Co-coordinator at the Manta Ray Kids Club, said staff were inspired to team up with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT after seeing the success of the program at Marrickville City Library last year.  

Children with the staff at Manta Ray sit with Labradors, Milo & Finn

“The children will hopefully go away having had a fun reading experience,” she said. “It is also a wonderful opportunity to promote the great work and services of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT (not to mention the wonderful work of the dogs themselves).”

PAT dogs trained by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently, are obedient, have a good temperament and are not too boisterous.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than two per cent of its funding needs from the government and is reliant on the generosity of the community to fund its services at no cost to those who need them.