8-year-old Golden Labrador, Tegan has recently joined St Nicholas House to spend three afternoons a week with students working to improve their reading ability.
Extensive research has shown the value of bringing gentle animals, such as dogs, into schools to work with children. This has led to a number of programs being developed to break down the barrier’s children experience to reading, one of the biggest being confidence and anxiety.
The University of Buckingham Vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon told The University of Buckingham Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference attendees it is no longer possible for schools to focus solely on academic achievements without considering the emotional wellbeing of their pupils. This is something Christ College is embracing with Tegan.
By reading to Tegan, who belongs to Christ College Head Gareth Pearson, pupils feel more relaxed and the worry of making mistakes when reading is removed. While reading, phrases become more important as the pupils share the story with Tegan, this can encourage the pupils to self-correct any misread words or sentences. This in turn builds their confidence.
As well as the improvement to reading skills introducing gentle dogs to pupils can improve the confidence of those who may be frightened or nervous around them by teaching canine body language and how to spot signs of discomfort in dogs.
Tegan has been very well received by pupils who are enthusiastic about upcoming reading sessions and for Tegan’s next visit.
Many of the pupils who read with Tegan discussed their increase in confidence as well as Tegan’s playful nature. Pupil Logan Fec said: “I like to read to Tegan because it helps me read more confidently and its so funny when she rolls around on the floor.”
Fellow pupil Matilda Hill said: “It makes me more confident to read. It’s the highlight of my day. I love reading to Tegan.”
As well as attending reading sessions Tegan joins pupils in the weekly welly walk during which students take a walk and collect any litter they pass, encouraging pupils to do their bit for the environment.
Julie Lewis, Head at St Nicholas House said: “This is such a great initiative that’s shown to be really beneficial to the students. Having Tegan onsite and interacting with them has been really lovely. The students have all become much more enthusiastic about reading sessions and often ask when Tegan will be onsite next.
“Their reading skills have also shown improvement along with their confidence. I’m really looking forward to seeing where we can take this initiative and ensuring as many students as possible can benefit from it.”
Set within the Brecon Beacons National Park, Christ College is an independent co-educational boarding and day school, with 370 pupils on roll between the ages of seven to 18. St Nicholas House is the junior school to Christ College and offers the same qualities and values promoted at the senior school to those aged 7-11.
Follow Tegan on Twitter for updates of her time at St Nicholas House: @CcbTegan