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Janine Sigley: Story Dogs: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

Helping children gain confidence by reading to dogs

Compassionate. Purposeful. Tireless

Janine Sigley is using a novel teaching method to ensure children are not left behind in literacy.

She co-founded the Story Dogs charity almost ten years ago and uses hundreds of trained dogs and volunteer handlers to encourage more than two thousand primary school children a week to read.

The charity works closely with teachers, who select children with low self-esteem and low reading levels to read to the dogs in a private session in a quiet area of their school.

The children have fun interacting with a friendly, non-judgmental dog, which boosts their confidence and improves their reading.

The volunteer handlers also get involved and ask the children to explain parts of the text to the dogs, which is another learning opportunity.

Most of the volunteers are retired people and the benefits of volunteering with their best mate, their dog, are enormous, says Janine, who is excited to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “It’s a big reflection of the wonderful work that Story Dogs does in Brisbane. It makes the work all the more worthwhile.”

Janine has been the driving force in setting up sound and sustainable systems for the charity and is actively involved in training the network of coordinators who then recruit, train and support new volunteers.

“I am incredibly passionate and would like to be helping five thousand children by the end of 2020. The big goal is to have a Story Dog in every primary school in Australia,” says Janine.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.

Story Dogs will use its grant to train twenty new dog teams for the Brisbane / Brisbane north area to help one hundred children learn to read.

“North Brisbane is a growth area, with many new schools. This grant will ensure we can expand with confidence in that area,” says Janine, who has also received interest nationwide from other primary schools.

“It’s amazing how we are changing kids’ lives. It is really rewarding work.”

__For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here. __

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