Lit­er­ary fame for spe­cial dog

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

A dog that helps re­luc­tant read­ers at Kerik­eri Pri­mary School is the star of a new chil­dren’s book.

Twice a week Meg takes a seat on the school li­brary couch, rests her head on the near­est lap, and lis­tens pa­tiently while chil­dren read to her.

The idea is that re­luc­tant or strug­gling read­ers will grow in con­fi­dence and learn to en­joy books by read­ing to some­one, or in this case a cud­dly re­tradoo­dle (re­triev­er­poo­dle cross), who never judges or cor­rects them.

Far North au­thor Richard Ward heard about Meg’s work, and de­cided it would make a fine sub­ject for a chil­dren’s book.

The re­sult, Sam and the Read­ing Dog, il­lus­trated by ‘dog-mad’ Gabriella Klepatski, from Mil­ford, was launched in the school li­brary ear­lier this month, with the au­thor, teach­ers, about 30 chil­dren, and the ca­nine star in at­ten­dance. Also there was 7-year-old Drew Bal­dock-Heta, who was Sam’s in­spi­ra­tion.

Li­brar­ian Kris­tine (Mrs Kris) Robin­son said Meg had been com­ing to the school for six years, so the chil­dren were used to hav­ing her around.

“Meg will put her chin on their lap and away they go . . . it’s a lovely thing we have with her,” she said, although she could also be mis­chievous.

“The chil­dren have to be very care­ful with their lunches. She has been known to take a bite out of a filled roll.”

Deputy prin­ci­pal Kerry Maxwell said read­ing to Meg was good for the chil­dren’s con­fi­dence be­cause she never com­plained if they got some­thing wrong.

Meg’s owner, Jan­netta Wil­mar, said she was ap­proached at Kerik­eri’s Sun­day mar­ket by an SPCA staffer who thought Meg would be ideal for the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Out­reach pro­gramme, in which pets are taken to schools and re­tire­ment homes as a form of ther­apy.

“I re­ally en­joy work­ing with chil­dren, and I love my dog. I’ve found some­thing I can do with both,” she said.

“The chil­dren are more re­laxed be­cause they’re sit­ting with Meg, who’s calm and cosy­ing up to them. She’s not judg­men­tal, and they just love read­ing to her.”

Meg ap­peared un­fazed by her newfound fame dur­ing the book launch, even though she could now find her­self in the cu­ri­ous po­si­tion of lis­ten­ing to chil­dren read­ing a book about Meg the read­ing dog. She showed more in­ter­est in the sausage rolls.

PIC­TURE / PETER DE GRAAF

Meg and Drew Bal­dock-Heta read­ing the book in­spired by their weekly ses­sions in the Kerik­eri Pri­mary School li­brary.

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