How this dog helps kids learn to read

BETTER READING: Scott McPherson, 9, and Ronan Johnson, 8, enjoy story time with Monty the Story Dog.
BETTER READING: Scott McPherson, 9, and Ronan Johnson, 8, enjoy story time with Monty the Story Dog. Cathryn McLauchlan

SELF-esteem and reading abilities are being boosted at Newrybar Public School thanks to a relaxed, patient and non-judgmental volunteer.

Monty the Story Dog visits the school each week along with his owner, Anne Lickiss, to read books with students.

Mrs Lickiss said in just two-and-a-half school terms the positive impact could be seen in friends Ronan Johnson and Scott McPherson, eight and nine years old.


"Even in the short time I've had them they've already upgraded their readers by three levels," she said.

"The dogs bring an air of relaxation to the whole situation ... barriers come down and everyone seems to be on the same level.

"Particularly the kids who may be struggling a little bit with reading, it helps them to relax and forget about the pressure of actual reading."

A study released yesterday revealed pets also have an impact on self-esteem and social skills, particularly in children.

The University of Liverpool study delved into scientific evidence to understand potential benefits.

"(It) looks promising," project leader Carri Westgarth said.

"We dug deep into that evidence to understand which potential benefits were most strongly supported.

Mrs Lickiss is one of about 10 volunteer and dog teams on the Far North Coast visiting schools on a weekly basis to help children with their reading.

She said the students engaged with books when they could read to Monty.

"(I bring) him into the story, then at the end of the session (the kids) give him a treat or a drink of water, or I'll let them lead him back to class," she said.

Mrs Lickiss recalled a funny moment when Monty fell asleep during one little girl's reading session.

"Monty's gone to sleep, he's not listening!" The girl told Mrs Lickiss.

"Well, you read so well, he is so relaxed you sent him to sleep," Mrs Lickiss said.

"She was quite happy with that."

Story Dogs first began at Murwillumbah East Public School in 2009 and teams now visit schools around the country.

It is a not-for-profit organisation based on the American literacy program: Reading Education Assistance Dogs.

Topics:  education northern rivers quirky reading story dogs

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