So far this has been far more successful than I’d even imagined it would be. On our first visit we took assembly for the whole of the Lower School so everyone could meet Traffy. As I read the children a book about her the children started saying 'Miss, Miss' and pointing behind me. When I looked round I saw that Traffy had helped herself to a bag of her favourite chicken donut treats from my bag (which is really her bag as it only has her toys and water bowl and treats and special mat in it) and was throwing the treat bag up in the air in the hope that one would fall out. As I looked back at the children's laughing faces I thought I couldn't have planned a better introduction for them to her. Who could be frightened of a dog who helped herself to her own treats.
‘Shall I give her one?’
‘Yes!’ came the resounding reply.
After that initial assembly our real 'work' began. Each week we go into the school for an hour and the children come one at a time to read to Traffy in the library (the carpeted floor is always a lot furrier by the time we go.) We're helped by one of the Mum's who brings the children to us - which speeds things along. And at the end of each child’s visit they get a special paw-print stamp in their reading record book.
I love listening to the children read and Traffy does too; lying next to the reader and often watching as they turn the pages – although occasionally she faces the wrong way and once or twice has had a little doze.
This week 2 of our regular readers were missing so the teacher said she'd pick two extra children who'd finished their books and were starting new ones to come to us instead. We were told some of the fastest reading in history happened as a consequence!
As well as her reading job Traffy's also recently been along to
the East Sussex Children's Book Award Ceremony at the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill where my book ‘The Great Escape was runner-up.
She wagged her tail at the 300 or so oohing and aahing children in the audience and would have gone down the steps there and then to meet them if I’d let her.
Kate Saunders won the beautiful engraved glass first prize for her book ‘The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop’ and as we answered the children's questions Traffy sat down on the stage and then lay down looking at us and then back out at the children - totally unfazed by it all. Although she'd have preferred it if there were more chicken donuts.
Ruth and Megan are the same person.
Megan Rix's latest book is 'The Victory Dogs' published by Puffin and set during the Blitz in WW2. Her website is www.meganrix.com
Ruth Symes' latest book is 'Witch Camp' published by Piccadilly. Her website is www.ruthsymes.com