‘My dog is teaching kids to read’: Therapy dogs for reading

Natalie and Miss Fergie are changing children's lives, one book at a time.
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Natalie and Miss Fergie are changing children’s lives, one book at a time Miss Fergie might look like your typical Brussels griffon dog, but to the children of Elizabeth South Primary School in Adelaide, she is anything but ordinary.

The 13-year-old rescue dog and her owner, Natalie Bubner, are part of the Story Dogs team visiting local schools to assist students who struggle with reading. 

WATCH: Why all dogs are good dogs. Article continues after video.

“Miss Fergie helps relax the children, which in turn helps them to focus and have fun while reading,” explains Natalie. 

“The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic.”

Natalie and Miss Fergie (Credit: Story Dogs)

Story Dogs, a non-profit organisation, was established in Australia in 2009. Based on a successful American initiative, it brings volunteers and their pups into schools to help children gain confidence in their reading abilities.  

“Their literacy skills improve and their confidence soars,” says Natalie, who began volunteering with Story Dogs back in 2017.

Miss Fergie underwent her dog assessments and training before starting to attend school every week. 

WATCH: How to work out with your dog. Article continues after video.

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“We saw one boy who had English as a second language,” Natalie recalls.

“When he started in the program he was reading very, very basic books. By the time he left the program, he was reading novels.”

“There are children who might be good readers but are lacking in confidence and don’t want to read aloud to anyone. Miss Fergie helps with that because they forget to be self-conscious. It brings so much joy to me seeing that happen; it really is magical.”

“It really is magical.” (Credit: Story Dogs)

Snuggled up in the reading corner, Miss Fergie sometimes falls asleep in the sessions – but even that can help!

“I say: ‘Miss Fergie is so relaxed hearing you read, you’re doing such a good job,’” shares Natalie.

“I always refer to her too. I might say: ‘Miss Fergie doesn’t understand the word on this page, can you explain it to her?’ It’s just all part of having the dog involved and making the children feel comfortable.” 

And it’s clear that Miss Fergie has made a big impression on all the children she meets. 

“She has her school photo taken with the kids every year, and it’s on display by the office,” says Natalie.

“She’s very special.”

The kids agree. 

“Miss Fergie has given me confidence to read,” says nine-year-old student Edan.

“I wish every day was a Story Dogs day.”

To find out more about Story Dogs, or to sponsor a Story Dog, visit 

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