It’s heaven in Devon for schoolchildren with a lovely tale to tell.
Eight-year-olds at a primary school in that delightfully creamy county are finding their reading and writing capabilities improving considerably under the watchful eye of a new classroom assistant by the name of Wynona.
Yet she never speaks a word to them.
For Wynona, you see, is a dog – an Alaskan malamute to be precise.
But her mere presence has had a remarkably calming effect on the children, who, it seems, find their four-legged friend a tail-wagging therapeutic inspiration. They may be having difficulty with their work – they may even sometimes be dog-tired – but somehow just a glance at the furry bundle of fun in the corner gives them the incentive to carry on.
Dogs Helping Kids, set up in 2003, is the brainchild of Tracey Berridge, who first became interested in the idea after watching a documentary about the positive influence of dogs on education when she was a teenager.
Now she is putting her ideas into practice in a bid to help the fight against recently revealed figures which show that one in six pupils reaching the age of 11 is unable to read fluently. Tracey wants to see those statistics improve significantly and firmly believes she is on a winner with Wynona.
So much so that the Devon-based canine behaviourist trainer is now grooming dogs to work in Wales, Lincoln and Stafford as well.
It would appear, therefore, that literacy in this country really is going to the dogs. And, as far as Tracey, Wynona and those Devon schoolchildren are concerned, that’s no bad thing!