How a greyhound and golden retriever are helping children at Hillside Avenue Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew read
PUBLISHED: 14:10 07 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:10 07 June 2017
She isn't your average classroom visitor - and her school trips are a far cry from her days on the race track.
Hillside Avenue Primary School, in Thorpe St Andrew, has recruited the help of a canine friend to encourage children to build confidence in their reading.
Hetty the greyhound has swapped racing at Great Yarmouth for regular visits to the school, where she sits and listens - and sometimes naps - as pupils read stories aloud.
She is often joined by Charlie the golden retriever, who is brought into school by a member of staff, and both the dogs have earned their Pets as Therapy badges, meaning they are safe to be in the classroom.
Liz Ireland, head of early years at the school, said it had transformed children’s attitudes to reading - and had even helped one overcome a fear of dogs.
“Having the dogs there encourages more reluctant readers and supports children who could do with some extra reading practice,” she said. “For children who are anxious about getting things wrong, it’s been amazing.
“Reading to a dog, who is completely non-judgmental and can only respond with positivity, has been hugely beneficial.
“We have children who are quite nervous about getting things right when reading with a teacher, but are so enthusiastic when they read with the dogs.”
The new initiative at the school, Reading with Dogs, was inspired by similar schemes elsewhere around the country.
Mrs Ireland said: “When we first suggested this idea, one parent said they loved it, but were worried their child might be apprehensive as they’d always been quite nervous around dogs.
“Since we’ve had Hetty coming in that has changed, and the child actually wrote a letter saying how much they loved Hetty. It’s had a huge impact on children, which we’re delighted to see.”
Hetty, who now lives in Sheringham with her owner, was rehomed by Homefinders, which looks after former racing greyhounds.