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