You have heard of guide dogs, you may have heard of therapy dogs but have you heard of dogs helping to improve a child’s literacy?
Thirlmere’s Paws Pet Therapy has secured sponsorship for its pet assisted reading program, Paws’n’Tales but is seeking more help to introduce and maintain the program at Picton Library.
Paws Pet Therapy, established 2012, is a charitable organisation that trains volunteers and their dogs to provide specialised pet therapy to people with special needs.
Paws Pet Therapy president Sharon Stewart said the Paws’n’Tales program trains volunteers and their dogs to help children with reading difficulties increase their literacy skills and confidence.
‘‘The dog creates a nice, calm and non-judgmental environment and we can teach the dogs tricks like following a child’s finger when they read,’’ she said.
Paws’n’Tales is the first Reading Assistance Education Dogs program, developed in America, to be launched in Australia.
The pilot program began at Shoalhaven Library in April this year and targets children aged 4-8.
‘‘The feedback has been good from parents in Nowra and the children are enjoying reading and are gaining confidence, with the kids looking forward to their sessions and some even take drawings in for the dogs,’’ Mrs Stewart said.
She said one success story was when a little girl got up and said a pray at a funeral which her mother said she would have never done because she used to be too shy.
The Paws’n’Tales program is set to be launched at Picton Library late next year.
Mrs Stewart said the program is therefore looking for volunteers and sponsors to help keep the program going and so no child will be charged for their sessions.
The program received $10,000 in funding from the Real Needs Community Grants Program.
‘‘The dogs need to be 18 months and have reached maturity but there are no particular breeds, they just need to have a lovely temperament,’’ Mrs Stewart said.
Paws Pet Therapy volunteers and dogs visit people who have a disability, are frail-aged, have dementia, are children, have challenging behaviours, are undergoing chemotherapy treatment, are taking part in rehabilitation programs, are lonely, are on the Autism Spectrum and are palliative.
‘‘The dogs help people at the aged care home reminisce, they help kids with autism improve their social interaction and they sit with people having chemotherapy to reduce anxiety,’’ Mrs Stewart said.
Buxton’s Maria Morton volunteers at Paws Pet Therapy with her puggle (beagle cross pug) RJ at an oncology ward and aged-care facility one or two times a week.
‘‘[Seeing RJ] brings a smile to the patients faces, takes their minds of the treatment and makes them feel special,’’ Ms Morton said.
‘‘I get the satisfaction of taking the dog out, they get satisfaction of spending time with the dog and he enjoys it because he loves the attention.’’
Ms Burton said she wanted to become involved in the literacy program because she wants to see children who are self conscious or were left behind in system learn to read with a dog’s help.
Details: Sharon Stewart: 0418 869 181.
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