Capel St Mary: Beloved family pets help children learn to read

Sophie reads to Harry

Sophie reads to Harry - Credit: Archant

What started out as a “mad” idea is beginning to catch on in Suffolk as a second primary school is now having pupils read to a dog.

The headteacher at Capel St Mary Primary School was inspired by Jo Kidby’s example at Nacton Primary School and now brings two pet pooches into the school to listen to the children reading.

Ms Kidby’s pet dog Heathcliff was the first to be brought into school with the aim of improving the reading of pupils - the idea is that children’s confidence and fluency grows as dogs listen to them read without interruption or criticism.

Harry and Teasel have been a fixture at Capel St Mary Primary School since the autumn term last year.

Harry is a six-year-old Collie who comes in on Tuesday afternoons and listens to a small group of Year 5 and Year 6 children, two of whom have made over a year’s progress at reading in just eight weeks.

On Thursday afternoon Teasel, a three-year-old cockapoo comes in with the vicar, Canon Jim Pendorf. Teasel is beloved by the children and listens to a range of them reading.

Wendy Kelway, headteacher at Capel St Mary, said: “Reading is a key to success in all areas of learning and the earlier children become confident and independent readers the better for all their education.

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“This is key to the approach at our school, where reading is encouraged and celebrated. One of the Ofsted criteria for a good school is, ‘Pupils read widely and often,’ and we are aiming for this.

“Following Jo Kidby’s mad idea at Nacton School we have introduced two dogs to Capel.”

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