Albert is the quietest in class at The Russell School, partly because of his docile, laid-back nature, but mostly because as a dog he just doesn’t say much. The seven year old Golden Retriever has an important job to do, he is the most popular, and arguably the most effective, reading assistant at Russell. Albert, who belongs to school Site Manager, Dave Bailey, has been going along to Year 1 reading sessions every Thursday since last September and has made a dramatic impact, especially on children who are reluctant readers.
“Many adults are apprehensive about speaking in public and children are no different.” says Head Teacher Claire Pitt, “Research shows that some children can become stressed when reading to others in a group but they look forward to reading to Albert!”
Class teacher Anna Van Nooten is very happy with her canine helper.
“He is a joy to have in the class! The children have written down why they like reading to him and we have pinned all the comments to the wall in the reading corner.”
“Albert just sits and is a good listener” adds Dave, “It’s so good seeing the children’s confidence grow!”
Albert’s presence has helped a couple of children overcome their fear of dogs and he has even inspired some families to get their own pet.
And there is great hope that the retriever reading service will continue for many years to come. Albert has recently become a dad and one of his, and Lab Tilly’s four puppies, Teddy, has just moved in with Dave. So Albert will now have an extra duty – to teach Teddy to follow in his paw-steps and learn the Russell reading assistant ropes. But that’s a tale for another time.
Main pic: Claire Pitt
Photos below: Jo Day Photography