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PAT Dog Opal inspires young reluctant readers at Cheshire school

Frodsham Primary Academy in Cheshire has seen an improvement in its pupils' reading ability and confidence, thanks to a PAT Dog called Opal who visits every week and listens to children while they read.

Over the past 18 months, the Read2Dogs scheme from Pets As Therapy has been rolled out in local communities in the North West – a result of generous funding from the Pets Foundation, Pets at Home's charity.

Labrador Opal and her owner Suzie Dickens support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and the school has seen a marked improvement in pupils' reading and communication skills, from being more willing and engaged to communicating more confidently with their peers.

Gemma Callaghan, Head Teacher at Frodsham Primary Academy, says: “We know just how important it is to nurture confidence when it comes to reading – it’s the foundation for all their learning. For those children who find literacy more challenging, we are always looking for new ways to inspire them. Opal has enabled us to create a unique environment for the children and their reading is flourishing as a result. We are hugely grateful to Opal and her owner Suzie for supporting our school community in this way.”

Matthew Robinson, Head of Income Generation at Pets As Therapy, adds: “We are delighted that the pupils at Frodsham Primary Academy are benefitting so much from Opal’s visits. We are grateful to volunteers such as Suzie for giving up her time to make such a difference to the lives of young readers. The work we are doing in the North West has only been made possible thanks to the funding we received from the Pets at Home charity, the Pets Foundation, who have generously donated nearly £350,000 over the last three years.”

Amy Angus, Head of Charity and Community at Pets Foundation, comments: “This is just one example of the life-changing impact pets can have on people’s lives. It’s so heartwarming to see the difference we are making in local communities and, in this instance, in children’s lives. It’s only because of the ongoing generosity of our colleagues and customers that we can support initiatives like this, which helps our mission of creating a better world for pets and the people that love them.”

The final word, however, must go to Rachael Charterey, mum to eight-year-old Louis. “As a parent, there is nothing better than seeing your child develop a newfound love for books and reading,” she smiles. “Opal’s weekly visits are the highlight of Louis’ week - I’ve loved watching his reading skills grow and the confidence they now have when it comes to reading out loud and in front of other people. I always know when Opal has been to school as Louis jumps through the door in excitement and cannot wait to tell me which parts of the story Opal liked best that day.”

PAT Dog Opal is assigned to the school through the North West Hub of Pets As Therapy, which has been funded by the Pets Foundation. 


We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

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