Story Telling Dogs

Brighton Rotary has recently sponsored Jill Bartrum and her dog, Bud, who are volunteers for the Story Dogs Literacy Program, a life-changing support program for primary school children with reading difficulties.

Each week, Jill and Bud visit Sandringham East Primary School where four selected children spend time outside the classroom reading to Bud.

Story Dogs aims to make reading fun for children. Bud is a good listener, he’s non-judgemental, likes a pat and a belly rub, and Jill says when the children read to him they become calmer, their focus improves and their confidence blossoms.

‘Bud is non-threatening,’ she says, ‘and once the pressure is removed, reading becomes fun and the kids improve dramatically.’ She adds: ‘Sometimes Bud goes to sleep so I have to tell them he’s listening with his eyes closed.’

The Story Dogs program is based on a similar program in the United States called R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs). Story Dogs began in Australia in 2009, and is now operating in all Australian states with 180 volunteer dog teams currently helping over 860 children in 107 schools.

Suzanne McCourt, wife of member, Stan Rankin, introduced the program into Victoria three years ago. Suzanne says there are now 20 schools participating in the program from Brighton to Toorak, Sunbury to Gembrook, Mt Martha to Mt Waverley. Some schools have up to six dog teams visiting each week.

There is no cost to the students. The program is entirely voluntary and receives no government funding. Volunteers try to find sponsorship of $500 a year for their dog which covers testing and accreditation, volunteer training, vet checks, insurance, volunteer and dog vests, blanket and books.

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