An initiative helping children improve their reading skills while surrounded by lovable dogs is looking for new volunteers ahead of the upcoming school year.
Story Dogs began on the Sunshine Coast four years ago and was adopted from a United States program that began in the early 2000s to make reading enjoyable for children.
Patricia Lovell has been part of the program for three years, previously in the role of southern Sunshine Coast co-ordinator, along with her collie spaniel cross, Jemma.
“It started off with Jemma being assessed and me doing the training and going to Caloundra State School where children came and read to her,” Ms Lovell says.
“When children read to a dog the outcomes are amazing.
“They have fun, they are not judged, [their] focus improves, reading skills increase and their confidence soars.
“Particularly [for] children who have literacy problems or children who have lost confidence or have mild behavioural problems, it’s wonderful. It’s quite amazing watching them and how they do improve.
“Even 20 minutes once a week is incredible. The dogs are just magic; they’re wonderful therapy for people.”
Unfortunately, Story Dogs was put on hold during 2020 and sadly Jemma died in October. Now Ms Lovell is looking for new volunteers.
“With COVID hitting it all stopped; it all came to a grinding holt,” she says. “We lost some of our volunteers and we are trying to get it going again.”
Ms Lovell says she is looking for volunteers with placid dogs who are happy to be around children.
“We have lots of labradors as they are incredibly placid.”
Volunteers must be able to give two hours per week for the school year, where they will work with the same four students.
“We supply them with books, a volunteer vest and a rug for the dog to lie on,” Ms Lovell says.
“Every school holidays we meet up and have a morning tea so they can meet other volunteers and do a book exchange.”
Dogs and volunteers must go through relevant checks and training before becoming part of the program. For more information call 0402 618 030.