To watch Kezzie* reading to Georgie is an education. Georgie knows how to build trust. He’s relaxed, he doesn’t judge. He’s patient and he listens. Georgie is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.
He comes to Harmeny School with his owner once a week so children can read to him. He loves it, and the children treasure time with him.
Our volunteers call their sessions “Read with a Lead”. The initiative supports the basic communication skills of reading, speaking and listening. These are vital to Harmeny’s children as they learn to build strong relationships with friends, family, teachers and – in the case of our volunteers – adults they barely know.
Different children respond to different techniques. For those who may struggle to connect words together, a volunteer might ask whether a child can point out a particular word “for Georgie”. For all the children, it’s the consistency of regular sessions over a long period makes all the difference.
Speaking and listening have been identified by school inspectors as key skills that Harmeny’s children need to develop. “Read with a Lead” is one informal but vital contributor to that goal.
Where the initiative also scores is in the opportunity it offers for children to grow in confidence – learning over a period of time how to relate to adults who are new to them and not authority figures; and how to build trust with people and animals alike.