Students at Hikuai School have a classmate with big brown eyes, soft ears, and a waggy tail. Their four-legged friend is Nessie the labrador, who comes in once a week to help the children with reading. Kind and gentle by nature, Nessie enjoys her time at school, and the children love having her in the classroom.
The ‘Tales for Tails’ programme has been introduced to Hikuai School by Principal Jared Stein, who has seen similar initiatives in a handful of schools around New Zealand. “Tales for Tails is based upon research which shows that reading to dogs can boost reading skills in children, as well as develop emotional and social skills”, says Mr Stein. “The results I’ve seen so far indicate success with readers of all ages and stages”.
According to the research, reading to dogs gives children essential extra practice with reading and oral skills. Children feel comfortable reading aloud to dogs as they won’t judge if a word is mispronounced. Petting the dog also has a calming effect, reducing the nerves some students experience when asked to read aloud. After participating in the programme, many pupils have gone on to read more at home, especially to their pets. The programme is about more than just reading though. It crosses over into the Health and PE curriculum as students learn how to look after and interact with a dog.
Mr Stein is delighted to see the initiative up and running at Hikuai School as it adds a unique dimension to our reading programme, our school and our environment.