On 9th June in Llandeilo Primary School, Carmarthenshire, dogs Riley and Layla enjoyed a star-spangled celebrity reception. Together with their handlers Leanne McFarland and Susan Smith of Carmarthenshire Therapy Dogs, they strutted their stuff on the catwalk (dogwalk?) to the sound of Hound Dog and then demonstrated to pupils how much they loved to listen to people reading – and to children’s stories in particular!
The event marked the launch of Reading with Dogs in Carmarthenshire, a collaboration between Carmarthenshire Therapy Dogs and Volunteering Matters’ pan-Wales Big Lottery funded project Learn Together Cymru. Learn Together Cymru Project Co-ordinator Rebekah Sharpe explained:
“Although most of our volunteers are human – and we are always keen to recruit more – research has shown that reading to dogs can also be immensely valuable in promoting a child’s love of reading and their reading skills. For some children, reading to a dog can be a real boost to confidence: the dogs are always pleased to have the attention and they never criticize!”
Susan Smith from Carmarthenshire Therapy Dogs explained that both the volunteers and their dogs go through a selection and training process, to ensure that both are suitable for being in school. She is keen to hear from more dog owners who think that their pets have the temperament to join the project.
After the launch event, Head Teacher Karen Towns, who was the first Head in Wales to request a Reading with Dogs volunteer, will be distributing leaflets to request that volunteers – with or without dogs – come forward to listen regularly to as many of the children as possible.
If your school could benefit from a canine volunteer (plus handler!), or you think that your pet would enjoy listening to children read in school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02920 464004