Dubai school holds reading session for children with doggy friends

Reading fluency increases in kids after participating in reading dogs programmes, studies show.


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 21 Jan 2022, 5:20 PM

Tiny tots of a school in Dubai had some special guests on campus, with each student reading to a furry friend.

The Aquila School had a group of adorable, children-friendly dogs who visited the school to conduct the reading workshops with the students from FS1-year 1.

Reading sessions with the canines were held across the school in a quiet area like a classroom, library or school hall.

Early Years Teacher, The Aquila School, Bethany Slater shared with Khaleej Times a bit more about this incredible scheme.

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She said, “Due to increased child interest, we held the Reading Dogs Initiative for the second time in November 2020. In previous years we have also invited reading dogs UAE into school with their animal assistance intervention dogs for our SEND children. We noticed that a lot of children were choosing to role play about pets, so we decided to base our learning around that.”

“For two weeks we learnt about how to look after the pets, and no surprise, dogs were the most popular pets amongst our children. The children learnt to write about how to look after dogs using letters, words, sentences, and pictures. The children were very excited on the day of the 'Reading Dogs' visit. The children went into small groups to speak to the staff who brought the dogs, explained what they had learnt, and then read stories. This was all whilst petting the dogs”, added Slater.

Each class took part in a 30-minute session, where each child had a chance to read to their visiting dog.

Slater further says, “During their visit, we had the pleasure of welcoming Ted, Ginger, Tess and Ramadi and their owners to the school.”

Teachers also explain reading to a dog helps children relax into reading, open up, try harder and have fun reading.

It’s said the dog isn’t just a gimmick to make reading more attractive. Even among older students, children enjoy reading to a pet as they are reading, not to be instructed or to have their errors pointed out, but to give pleasure.

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As per the reading dogs UAE website, “Studies show that reading fluency has increased between 12-30 per cent in children after participating in reading dogs programmes. Children enjoy the programme and think it is fun. They look forward to coming to the library because they feel the dog is waiting for them.”

“In our school we instill a love of reading in every child from the very moment they come to our school. With our three libraries, all children can immerse themselves in a variety of stories, tailored to their age range and reading level.

We have had previous visits from reading dogs UAE and the children have always thoroughly enjoyed their visits and meeting their new furry friends,” opines Slater.

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Foundation Stage 2 (FS2) student Al Maha says, “We read the books to the dogs, and we were gentle with them.”

“My best bit is when we read to the dogs ‘Pirates love underpants’ and we stroked the dogs too” says Theo.

Dia adds, “Dogs can’t really read but they can pretend, and they can listen to us read.”

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