In the Junior Years Program at Morris Hall, we provide a range of experiences for students to learn at their own pace, in a comfortable environment where they feel empowered.
One initiative we use at Morris Hall is Story Dogs. Story Dogs is a non-profit organisation that enables volunteer dog teams to visit the School to enable students to participate in a reading experience that builds confidence in a calm and nurturing setting.
We are lucky to have Susan and her border terrier Roger, and Susan and her miniature labradoodle Evie come and read with the girls. Both dogs have gone through rigorous training to ensure that they are the best fit for the School environment, including both handler and dog being tested by an accredited dog trainer. The test is to ensure that the dogs can cope in the school environment, and that they are docile and placid dogs who can calm any nerves that the student they’re with might have.
Assistant Director of Junior Years, Becky Glenton said:
“Our Morris Hall girls cannot wait for Tuesday morning every week. When the Story Dogs arrive, the girls are so excited and cannot wait to have their turn. They have grown to love the dogs and find such comfort in their sessions.
Story Dogs allow our girls to develop their confidence with reading, giving them a space to read aloud without feeling pressure to get every word right. Their reading fluency has increased as well as their language and communication skills. Their self-esteem has risen as has their love of reading for pleasure.
We are very grateful to our Story Dogs and their wonderful owners, who are definitely a part of the Morris Hall community.”
You may ask how reading to a dog could assist — in reality, it allows children to feel safe and comforted. It is a non-judgemental environment where confidence is boosted, and focus improves. An optimal environment for learning!
The correlation between therapy dogs and motivation to read has been widely studied, with the effects of the presence of an animal shown to promote:
- A higher sense of self concept and self-esteem (Van Hautte & Jarvis, 1995)
- More confidence as a result of a pet as a source of support (Van Hautte & Jarvis, 1995)
- Reduced blood pressure in children who were asked to read aloud (Friedmann, Katcher, Thomas, Lynch, & Messent, 1983)
- An improved and sustained focus, as well as improved attitude towards school (Martin & Farnum, 2002).
Story Dogs Australia has been operating for over 10 years and is now available in every state. “The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic and helps children relax, open up, try harder and have fun while reading to a friendly, calm dog,” commented Story Dogs Australia on why the initiative is so successful.
To support Story Dogs, and the ongoing relationship we have built with Susan, Roger, Susan and Evie, Morris Hall recently hosted a fundraising event, where all students were invited to watch The Lady and the Tramp and purchase a small container of popcorn. With initiatives like this and other donations, Story Dogs can continue to visit schools across Australia and help children become confident, lifelong readers.
There are lots of ways we can support Story Dogs, find out how you can help by clicking here.