This reading programme improves children’s reading and communication skills by using a powerful tool – reading to a dog. Willow is a three year old Golden Retriever. She is St. Matthew’s reading dog.

There is great excitement when Willow comes into school, she loves being stroked and settles calmly beside the child.  Willow doesn’t ask questions or criticize pronunciation. She does wag her tail, prick up her ears and occasionally dozes (naturally dreaming about the story!)

Reading to Willow has many benefits, it improves relaxation and confidence. Some children show pictures to Willow as they read and often choose animal related stories. The children feel in control, and it makes reading fun again!

Willow continues to visit St. Matthew’s to listen to children read; strong bonds have formed between the children and Willow. A new cohort of children are reading to Willow this term, all of them are eager to read and share their stories.

Last term every child showed improvement in their reading and were more confident and willing readers.

Here are a few comments from children who read to Willow last term.

‘There is this feeling that she’s keeping me safe and she helped me to conquer my fear of dogs.’

‘I like reading to Willow because she listens to me.’

‘I feel comfortable reading to Willow and enjoy stroking her when I read.’