Boy reading book with a dog

Our flagship reading with dogs project

Burns By Your Side is our flagship reading with dogs project, and we are justifiably very proud of it!

The project is aimed at children of all ages to help with reading and communication skills. Reading to our trained learning support dogs has proven to have a huge impact on the children that participate.

The fear and pressure they may feel when reading to an adult is taken away and their stress level is reduced. The reading dogs scheme provides a calm, relaxing safe environment where a child can enjoy a book without any judgement, they can develop their vocabulary and improve their reading skills.

If you are a school interested in taking part in the Burns By Your Side reading with dogs scheme, please email admin@johnburnsfoundation.org to enquire.

A team of over 80 fully trained dedicated volunteers

We currently have a team of over 80 dedicated Burns By Your Side volunteers, delivering reading sessions in primary and secondary schools, libraries, colleges and special needs units in South and West Wales. We have recently extended the scheme to Ireland where we have a team of 11 volunteers in the Wicklow area

As part of the scheme our dogs are tested for their good nature and temperament by fully qualified Kennel Club trainers. Once assessed for their suitability the volunteers and their dog will then complete a training and assessment process which meets the standards of Kennel Club good citizen scheme silver level.

Child reading with adult and dog

Once fully trained our volunteers then begin the process of attending their allocated school(s), on a weekly basis. Over time the children and the dog build up a special relationship which encourages children to want to read because it’s fun and not just because they have to. Over the years we’ve witnessed so much magic between the readers and the dogs.

Children with very many specific conditions and needs have flourished as part of the scheme. Some who have previously found it difficult to speak out loud in school have increased in confidence and are happy to read to the dogs and their peers. Many others who were reluctant readers gain a love of reading and begin reading voluntarily at home.

We offer a free service to schools

The schools involved in the scheme also benefit from the children being educated on how to be safe around any dogs.

We offer this free service to schools to support the ongoing work they do with learners. When asked if teacher would recommend this initiative the response was ‘absolutely and without hesitation’.