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Writer Jilly Cooper heaps praise on Prestbury library’s 2018 Prize-winning ‘Paws for Reading’ initiative.

Gloucestershire resident and long-standing advocate of many animal charities, Jilly Cooper, said that Prestbury Library’s exciting ‘Paws for Reading’ project is helping children to gain confidence in reading. The project brings together her great loves: dogs, reading and libraries.

Every month, children from The Ridge Academy in Cheltenham, a school for children with special educational needs, visit the library or Cheltenham Animal Shelter to read books aloud to rescue dogs. Evidence has shown that children feel less anxious when reading to dogs.

Jilly said, “This project brings together two of the most important things in the world; dogs and reading. Dogs are, of course, non-judgemental, so it’s a brilliant idea. And libraries are such a precious asset. I remember the first time I went in a library as a child and I was blown away. Dogs always bring people comfort so it’s wonderful that dogs are helping to enhance the enjoyment of libraries.”

Jonathan Taylor, Chairman of the David Vaisey Trust, said, “It’s an exciting, important and impressive project, bringing together patient dogs and children with additional needs to enjoy books and reading. Prestbury Library’s project was a very worthy winner of the David Vaisey Prize. We are now looking forward to receiving more entries for the 2019 prize from other inspiring and successful initiatives from across Gloucestershire’s libraries.”

Joanne O’Dea, team leader at Prestbury Library, Cheltenham, said, “Paws for Reading has been so rewarding. We have really enjoyed seeing the students change from reluctant readers, who didn’t want to visit the library, to students who are engaged in the project and look forward to their library visits. The project has been hugely enjoyable and we were delighted that the David Vaisey judges recognised its value and awarded us the prize.”

Left to right: Erica Lake, Danielle Perry, dog Mitzy and pupils Tyler, Eli and Harvey