Stumpy the story dog opens a world of reading

Connor, 6, reads with Stumpy. Picture: Luke Hemer

Pupils who were previously unable to read even short stories have started new chapters in their lives, thanks to a three-legged dog named Stumpy.

The placid golden retriever and owner Cindy McGregor visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary School in Sunbury once a week, spending time with children experiencing literacy difficulties.

The kids are taken to a quiet space and encouraged to read to the friendly and non-judgmental Stumpy as part of Story Dogs, a growing literacy movement based on a successful program in the US.

Mount Carmel is the first school in Melbourne’s north-west to offer the program.

It’s a simple concept, but one that has led to life-changing results.

Curriculum co-ordinator Trish Cairns says the four children involved so far have blossomed.

‘‘One little boy didn’t have the confidence to read to his teachers,’’ she says. ‘‘Now, he’s always practising and reading to adults to make sure he’s ready for when Stumpy visits.’’

Ms McGregor is keen to get other schools, volunteers, dogs and sponsors involved.

‘‘Once a child can read, it opens up a whole world to them forever,’’ she said.