Not-for-profit employment, training, and apprenticeships organisation, VERTO, has thrown its support behind a unique reading initiative called Story Dogs in Grafton on the NSW North Coast.
A generous donation allows ‘Rusty’ and his handler Kathy Lark to visit Gillwinga Primary School once a week to listen to the children practice their reading.
“Our mission is to make reading fun for children and to encourage them to be confident, lifelong readers," Ms Lark said.
"Rusty is always very interested in everything the children have to say and loves stories, especially a good dog yarn!”
The Story Dogs program aims to help students who are struggling to learn to read by providing them with a positive, calm environment.
“In turn the child’s reading skills improve and their confidence grows,” Ms Lark said.
"The dog is non-judgemental, it doesn't worry about the children making a mistake, or using the wrong words.
“It’s a wonderful program and we could not do this without the support from organisations like VERTO,” she said.
The Story Dogs initative started at Murwillumbah on the NSW North Coast about 14 years ago, based on a program in the United States. It has proven to be a huge success and spread to 75 locations and 355 schools across Australia, with more than 560 volunteers.
VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said he was thrilled to be able to support the program and provide young readers with a fun and safe way to develop their skills.
“We’re really proud to team up with Story Dogs in Grafton and play a small role in helping primary school children improve their literacy outcomes,” he said.
“Making a positive impact in our local communities is at the heart of what we do at VERTO, so it’s fantastic to be able to support such an important program with a donation.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to sponsor a dog team like VERTO, please visit www.storydogs.org.au au or contact the Clarence Valley’s Story Dogs coordinator Kathy Lark: