A dog to read to

En hund att läsa för

At Sigtuna library, children can practice reading aloud in peace and quiet in front of reading dogs, a dog to read to, who neither judges nor stresses them out. The project, which received a very positive response, has hypoallergenicity as an important issue.

During the spring, the dogs Luna, Nova, Milou and Muffins have come to the Sigtuna library to work as reading dogs every Wednesday morning between 8-11, a dog to read to . In the cozy reading corner, where pillows and blankets have been laid out, one child at a time gets to read to one of the dogs, and thus practice reading aloud.
- No one tells you when you accidentally read wrong. And it's nice that you get to pet the dogs when you read to them, says Martin Kavak, who is one of the children who took part in the project.

In school, reading aloud can be a difficult experience and lead to stressful situations for some children. The reading skin, on the other hand, is calm and soft, and does not correct when you accidentally read wrong. Children who have reading difficulties or are anxious in the classroom can therefore come to the reading dogs and practice their reading in peace and quiet. In other words, it becomes less dramatic for the children to have a dog to read to.

a dog to read to at the Sigtuna library Nova the dog listens to reading aloud. Dog handler Marika Zetterdahl sits next to her.

Projects such as Sigtuna's Reading Dogs, with children reading aloud to a specially trained dog to promote literacy, have recently become more and more popular. Above all in the USA and Great Britain, but also in Sweden, more people have opened their eyes to how dogs can act as support for children with reading difficulties. Linné University's "The Book Dog and Astrid Lindgren" is an example. The aim of the initiative is to establish Book Dogs in Sweden, and in this way benefit projects where specially trained dogs and dog handlers can help children to increase their reading ability and love of reading.

The reading dog project at Sigtuna library takes place in collaboration with St Per's school, which allows students from year three to come and read to the dogs. It was last winter that guard dog handler Marika Zetterdahl started the initiative together with Elina Garp, who used the reading hours as a master's thesis topic. And great results have been reported in the study – the five children that Elina examined passed all the grade three national exams in Swedish! Marika and the children's librarian Paula Norrlid, who participate in the project, have also met with a very positive response during the 20 weeks that the project has been running.
- The children have appreciated it a lot. A child said that you get really "soft in the body from the dogs", I thought that was so nicely said, says Paula.

Allergy an important aspect

In order for the project to create as positive an impression as possible, much focus has been placed on allergy sufferers to notice as little as possible of the dogs. The reading sessions with a dog to read to take place before the library opens and all textiles used in the reading corner are removed before the library opens. All surfaces are wet-dried after the dogs have left the premises and there is clear signage explaining where this is going on. The dogs are also washed, and with one special shampoo can they be kept as hypoallergenic as possible.

This autumn, a reading dog project is planned on site at St Per's school in Sigtuna, and then it is also important to plan based on the allergy aspect.
- We carry out the reading dog projects with the greatest consideration and respect. At St Per's school, the reading sessions will take place in their own room and when the dogs go to and from they are wearing service blankets, which means they are not allowed to be petted. All parents can also come to the information meeting and hear more about the project, and ask questions if they want, explains Marika.

Miles Harmer reads aloud to his friend Martin Kavak and little reading dog Milou.

The preparations and planning around the allergy issue have made the reading dog project at Sigtuna's Library work without problems. Marika and Paula say that some library visitors were a little worried before, but that they became calm when they understood the arrangement. And since the project was launched, there have been no complaints. Martin Kavak, who practiced reading aloud to the reading dogs during the spring, has a father who is allergic to dogs. But as long as he makes sure to wash his hands thoroughly after he has been to the lesson, it will be fine.

A dog to read to or a reading dog bus in the future?

Using special shampoo , careful preparation and also the possibility of finding the most allergy-friendly dogs through allergen test so there are many opportunities to develop the reading dog concept and spread it further to more places. There are plans to start a reading dog project on the Medborgarbussen in Sigtuna and thereby solve the problem with a premises. In this way, the bus can get out to the school and around to various schools, without creating problems for allergy sufferers in the environments, but still be at hand for the children who want to read to the dogs.

Because that's what many people want. Several of the young readers may primarily want to come for the dogs, but soon it will also be more fun to read. Both Martin Kavak and his friend Miles Harmer, who were also present during the reading hours at Sigtuna library, say that they have become better at reading and that it now feels easier because they had the opportunity to sit with a dog to read to. Miles has even started reading to his cats at home.
- They usually go to bed in the evening and then I usually read aloud to them, he says.

Martin Kavak greets his favorite reading dog Luna.