Some children show the dog the pictures as they read
When children read to him, Danny does not criticise or correct their pronunciation. He just nods and pricks up an ear, although sometimes he closes his eyes and appears not to be listening.
Danny is a greyhound and a novel way of encouraging pupils at Oakhill primary school in Tamworth, Staffordshire, to read aloud. A “listening dog”, he is part of a scheme that originated in the US called Reading Education Assistance Dogs (Read).
“It helps with their self-esteem in reading out loud because he is non-judgmental,” says the dog’s owner, Tony Nevett, who has a degree in animal-assisted therapy. “He doesn’t judge them and he doesn’t laugh at them. He’s just a tool – the children don’t realise they are reading, which they might not have the confidence to do in class.” Some children even show Danny the pictures as they read.
Danny received five months of training to become a Read dog. Greyhounds are particularly well-suited because they do not bark and their short coat is less likely to trigger allergies.
Nevett hopes that the scheme, piloted in Kent, will spread. “We’ve had some success stories, including a girl with Down’s Syndrome who really took to the dog and improved her reading,” he says. “When Danny goes to sleep I tell the children that he’s dreaming about their story.”