A special four-pawed member of staff at Otara Library is helping young children boost their reading confidence.
His name is Roo and the retired champion racing greyhound provides a safe, accepting and non-judgemental ear for young people as they practice their reading skills.
|Young reader Yasmin with Roo, whose couch potato manner |
makes him the perfect dog for the programme.
"I came up with the idea after researching greyhounds as a breed of dog as our family was looking at adopting one, especially after all the greyhounds we had met were just such calm and laid-back characters – and really good looking too!
"I found that many greyhounds in the UK and the US were not only pets, but also ‘reading dogs’ – helping kids gain confidence in their own literacy skills and creating a positive relationship between communities and local libraries."
As well as their calm, gentle “couch potato” manner, greyhounds also have a low shedding, low-allergy coat, and they are often used as therapy dogs here in New Zealand as well as overseas.
Pritcilla and her family contacted rehoming charity Greyhounds as Pets to adopt the perfect pooch and were quickly matched with Roo.
"Roo was specially selected to become our ‘reading dog’. He is a big, gorgeous, calm and gentle dog with a wonderful smile. Kids often mention his kind eyes and soft fur as a real highlight – they love that he ‘really listens’ and doesn't wander off. Roo is probably ‘the perfect dog’ as many people have described him: always happy to be admired but never demanding attention."
|Regular Reading with Roo participant Patolo |
encourages his younger brother Aukuso to read too.
"Most of his readers are ‘repeat customers’ and every school term, new kids become Roo’s reading buddies, clamouring to make appointments and negotiating with others to squash in some time.
"All reading sessions are fully booked, and we have had to limit bookings to one week at a time (unless it’s parents requesting a continuous spot to help their child with literacy – Roo has a few of these weekly appointments) otherwise no one else would get a turn."
The one-year pilot project has shown immediate, tangible results.
"Some of the coolest stuff has been seeing kids’ literacy improving – as they gain confidence, they start becoming real storytellers and narrators. Kids who are initially afraid of dogs gain such confidence and enjoy spending time with Roo. I love hearing feedback from parents about how their child has improved at school, how they read at home now, how they want to take out books and become library members" Pritcilla added.
The Reading with Roo scheme is a perfect fit with Auckland Libraries’ 10-year planning document, Te Kauroa - Future Directions which includes a key focus on children. One of the plan's aims is to create and nurture readers and to make 'every child a reader, every child a library member'.
|Justina reads to Roo at Otara Library|
Otara Library and Roo also featured on TV One's Seven Sharp programme on 4 June 2014.
Update: Pritcilla and Roo have moved on from Otara Library and are sadly no longer available for reading sessions.