PUPILS at St Mary the Virgin Church of England Primary School in Leigh, Greater Manchester, have been reading aloud to a dog, Brian, to help inspire confidence in their ability.
Brian, a five-year-old Jack Russell and Shih Tzu cross, lives with the Vicar of St Mary’s, Leigh, the Revd Kevin Crinks, who brings him into the school every Monday to listen to pupils read.
The head teacher, Deborah Catchatoor, suggested the idea after she saw a dog being used to encourage learning and grow confidence, at a conference. “Reading to an animal is different to a human. The dog doesn’t answer back or correct them,” she told the Manchester Evening News last week. “There is also the sensory touching and cuddling the dog. This makes reading a lovely experience for the children.”
Four or five different pupils are chosen each week so as not to overwhelm Brian. One six-year-old pupil said that he had been “a little frightened” of dogs at first, but now enjoys cuddling and reading aloud to him.
Brian is a regular visitor to the three C of E primary schools in the parish, and welcomes the children as they come into church for special assemblies and services, Mr Crinks said on Monday. “He is loved by the children, and receives gifts at Christmas — and even the occasional birthday card.”
Brian attends St Mary’s for the daily office, Wednesday eucharist, and baptisms. He even attends funerals, at the request of the families, when he processes into church and sits near the coffin. He also attends PCC meetings, but tends to fall asleep in the corner, Mr Crinks says. “The church really is his second home, and he makes everyone feel at ease by his presence.
“He is a tremendous partner in my ministry, a true Franciscan Brother. When I was rather unwell two years ago, the Bishop of Manchester was said to have expressed his concern about Brian’s welfare, which really sums up the affection with which he is held in our community.”