The capacity of dogs to help with children’s literacy levels is being put to the test at a pilot program in a state school in Cairns.
Woree State School is taking part in the Delta Society’s Classroom Canines program which helps kids lacking confidence and needing additional support in literacy, through the attention of a specially-trained volunteer and their canine companion.
“Dogs are incredibly loyal, attentive and non-judgemental. Classroom Canines is more than just a reading program,” explained Delta Society coordinator, Sandra Glaister.
“The aim is to help children improve their reading skills, using specially trained volunteers and their Delta-accredited dogs,” Ms Glaister said.
The volunteers and their temperament-tested dogs will visit Woree State School on a weekly basis throughout this term for reading lessons, either with an individual child or in a group environment.
The Classroom Canines Program is being monitored by animal behaviourist, Dr Janice Lloyd, and education expert, Dr Reesa Sorin, from James Cook University in Townsville.
“We have a special interest in the human-animal bond and how dogs benefit people mentally and physically,” Dr Lloyd said.
“The research is an exciting collaboration between the two JCU schools, the Delta Society and Woree State School. We are hoping to quantify any changes in children’s literacy skills as well as assessing any effects interaction with a dog may have on social and cognitive development.”
Woree State School Deputy Principal Joanne Sibley said it was a fantastic opportunity for their students to engage in new and meaningful ways to increase their fluency and confidence in reading.
“The 12 students involved in the initial program are excited about reading to their furry friends,” she said.
So far the program has been conducted in Townsville, Geelong and Newcastle. It provides schools with an additional learning tool to encourage the overall development of a student.
Previous research conducted in Townsville at Stuart State School by Dr Sorin found students and teachers were very enthusiastic about the program.
“We envisage special bonds and relationships will also be forged between students and dogs,” Dr Sorin said.
The initiative for the pilot project is made possible by funding from Woree State School. Dr Sorin and Dr Lloyd plan to seek future funding to deliver the program to schools across Australia.
Delta Society Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation with one core belief: that the human-animal bond remarkably improves our quality of life and leaves a lasting paw print on our hearts. They also conduct therapy programs and classes to help children be safe around dogs.
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Further information at Delta Society Australia.