A SCHOOL in Poole says it has seen a vast improvement in reading levels since dogs were brought in as book buddies.

Sylvan Infant School, on Livingstone Road, welcomes a group of pooches from the charity Caring Canines in once a week for the children to read to, helping them grow in confidence, as part of the Be Bookwise scheme.

This week, pupils got the chance to show off their progress by reading aloud to an extra-special guest, the Mayor of Poole, Cllr Phil Eades, as Caring Canines is one of his chosen charities.

Sue Hargie, business manager at Sylan Infant School, said: “Caring Canines come in every week and visit the children who find reading particularly difficult.”

She added: “The child will have chosen a book at their level and will then sit down with the dog matched up with them, who they will read to.

“It’s nice to be able to welcome the volunteers from Caring Canines in, as we have found that it has been very successful in building the children’s confidence and, of course, they all love seeing the dogs.”

Founder of Caring Canines, Sue Dennett, said: “The research on children reading to dogs started in America and someone suggested to us about trying it ourselves, with our volunteers and dogs.

She added: “We started in one school, I think back in 2008, and now we visit six on a regular basis, with each child who needs help with reading being designated a book buddy in the form of a dog.”

Sue says the dogs offer non-judgemental support for the children who are part of the scheme and then at the end of term, the school pupils feature in a presentation to celebrate their great achievement.

“I can hand on heart say that every child involved in Be Bookwise has greatly improved in their reading level.”

Caring Canines are looking for new volunteer dog-owners to help with all areas of their charity work. For more information, contact the charity on 01202 579744.