The BBC reported yesterday on a growing trend in some schools to use a Reading Buddy partnership scheme to encourage reluctant readers to enjoy books and particularly to enjoy reading aloud. You can read the report here.
Here at school, we do a reading buddies scheme, where we ask the children in Year Six to buddy up with the children in the Key Stage One classes to encourage them to read for ten minutes every morning after registration and before lessons start.
The BBC report is a little different however. In the schemes they are talking about, the buddies are actually dogs.
This is not a new concept. The Times Educational Supplement ran a two page spread about this idea about two years ago, but it seems from the BBC report that it is becoming more wide spread and acceptable in schools now.
The dogs are trained, much in the manner of guide dogs, to sit quietly and not to get over excited or intimidate the child. The idea is that a child who is afraid of reading and failing, or of being judged by teachers or peers will not feel judged by the dog. The dog is responsive enough to the child’s voice and movements to allow the child to think that they are directly affecting the dog’s mood by what they are reading. It can provide a non threatening environment in which the child can flourish.
It can also prove effective with readers who have issues other than reading which impact on their ability to read by proxy. Disruptive children, or children with authority issues may well benefit from having this benign presence alongside them. They may amend their behaviour for the dog where they would not think to do this for another person.
In the BBC report, the head teacher of a school in Corby, which specialises in working with children with difficulties said that the scheme was proving particularly effective for disruptive children and for those who might be fantastic readers but who are reluctant to even try reading.