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Chalkley and Squirt with students Bronte (left) and Seb at South Geelong Public School

Dogs can improve literacy: researcher

A Deakin University researcher has launched a fundraising campaign for a study into how therapy dogs can raise literacy levels amongst young children.

Dr Tony Chalkley began the campaign after witnessing previously reluctant readers, happily reading to a dog.

“It’s a little bit magical the way kids who are normally reluctant readers line up to read with Squirt the therapy dog,” Chalkley said. “The simple act of patting and talking with the dog triggers the desire to share stories from the child’s own pet history.

“Most kids seem to start by talking about the animals they’ve owned, then they talk about life events that have happened with and because of these pets and, finally, share how they felt as a result.”

Chalkley hopes to fund a 12-month field study named Read2Spotto further understanding of the role and value of therapy animals in a child’s learning.

He also hopes the data will support existing pet and animal therapy programs, help improve and expand the training of handlers, and assist in the development of innovative ways to build literacy skills for kids.

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