Dubai: If reading is not one of your child’s virtues, this is for you.
The UAE-based Animal Agency, a professional agency which supplies animal models and actors, is launching a novel service to help children develop a love for books by reading to dogs.
Karalynn Thompson, managing director of the agency, told XPRESS that the initiative called Reading Dogs will be introduced in Dubai schools from September. “The programme is extremely successful in the US and UK, and we are excited to bring Reading Dogs to the UAE. We will rope in our specially chosen and assessed, child-friendly dogs and manage the reading sessions in conjunction with the schools.”
The reading sessions will take place in a quiet area such as a library or school hall. A typical session will last 20 minutes and will give every child a chance to read to a dog. “We work with the class teacher to decide on a suitable book for the class reading level and can offer a one off session or a regular visit,” said Thompson.
According to her, “Studies have shown that reading to dogs offers children numerous benefits. It helps children relax into reading, open up, try harder and have fun reading. Studies have shown that reading fluency has increased between 12–30 per cent in children after participating in Reading Dogs sessions. Dogs are also proven to have a relaxing effect on humans.”
Louise Dave, operations director at the agency said, “Dogs can be fantastic companions, and great listeners. We believe it is important for young people to be educated about behaviour around dogs and this education is something that we will also bring to the Reading Dogs sessions.”
The “reading for school” dogs are not your usual canines. As Dave said, these dogs go through a rigorous training and assessment programme overseen by Animal Agency’s trainer Denise Vertigen. All reading for school dogs have been given a clean bill of health by local vets.
Dave said the Reading for Schools team comprises specialists from a qualified trainer who assesses each dog before being certified a Reading Dog, marketing and operations executives, plus animal handlers who are on hand for each Reading Dog session.
The agency currently has three dogs that can be booked for reading sessions: Mario, a pomsky, Lost, a German Shepherd and Xena, a Pomeranian. Three other dogs, which are still undergoing training, will join the school-bound pack soon. They include Remy, a wheaten terrier, Luna, a pomsky and Misslle, a Bernese mountain dog. Besides school sessions, private readings at home are also an option. Thompson said some children work better at home, so flexible reading plans and tailored reading sessions on a one-to-one basis are also provided.
“Private sessions are much like our school sessions, with our team working closely with the teacher or parent to identify suitable reading material and setting out objectives for the sessions. Our team will carry out a 20-40 minute private session at school or in the comfort of the child’s home where the focus is on enjoyment and working at a pace that suits the child’s learning.”
Those wishing to obtain the service can get the contact details on www.readingdogsuae.com. The service cost varies depending on the session.
What steps do you take to encourage your child to read? Have they worked?
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