This rainbow-hued picture book is a brilliant way to talk to young children about the dangers of running off and what to do if they find themselves lost. Make sure you scroll down to read Cara’s piece about the work she and her gorgeous cockapoo (and inspiration for this book), Scout do as part of Pets As Therapy’s Read2Dogs programme.
‘It can be so hard to find a pet who is able to change colour, but what happens when it is the young owner who can’t be found? Time for some colour-changing cockapoo magic.
Featuring bouncing rhyme, a joyful springtime palette and a big blended, multicultural family, this is an entertaining and inclusive read for cockapoo-lovers, big and small!’
‘Reading in schools with Read2Dogs’ by Cara Matheson.
Cara Matheson is a debut author and former magazine journalist. She also does a very special job with her pet dog, Scout…
My debut picture book, Finding Floss, features a cockapoo dog with a hidden talent – she can change colour and camouflage with her surroundings. And while my own pet cockapoo, Scout, lacks this ability, she does have a superpower of her own. Scout is a therapy dog and, together, we volunteer in schools as part of Pets As Therapy’s Read2Dogs scheme.
Twice a week, you’ll find us heading to our local primary school. Just as we reach the front gates, I put on Scout’s special ‘work’ uniform – her yellow Pets As Therapy jacket – and we head up to the library to wait for the small group of children who have been selected to read with us that day.
First, we begin with introductions. The children sit down on bean bags and get to stroke Scout in turn and ask questions. Scout will usually flop down on their laps for scratch behind the ears, or roll onto her back for belly rubs. If a child is a scared or wary, however, Scout seems to pick up on this and will wait until she senses they are ready.
Keeping things relaxed is super important. Often, the children who come to see Scout have special educational needs, are new to speaking English, or are simply anxious about reading aloud. The children can choose any book they like, sit anywhere they fancy. They can come and read to Scout on their own or in pairs. I always stress that I am not a teacher,there to correct their reading or test them on what they’ve learned, and that it is Scout they are reading to (I am just the humble lead-holder and occasional treat-dispenser).
As soon as the child starts to read, Scout will – if permitted –curl up beside them, often resting her chin on their leg. Occasionally, she’ll prod the book with her nose, demandingattention, before settling down again. I think seeing Scout relax changes the atmosphere and makes reading aloud much less intimidating for the children.
The types of children I see varies as much as the books on the shelves: The shy child, who barely says a word in class, willread to Scout a chapter of her favourite Rainbow Magic book, becoming more animated with every page turn; the book-lover who can’t wait to introduce Scout to Oliver Twist; the child with dyslexia, who beams with pride after reading That’s Not My Tiger all the way though, pausing to help Scout feel the different textures on the page with her paw.
The work is no doubt a rewarding, joyful experience, but it also helps me as a writer. Seeing which stories the children choose time and time again and listening to how they read them and absorb their meaning, is fantastic professionalinsight. Above all, though, it has shown me how a love of reading can be nurtured in the right setting. Dogs and books are indeed a winning combination.
Scout herself seems to enjoy the sessions immensely. It’s crucial that she is happy, too. Part of the Pets as Therapy assessment process involves observing the dog in a busy place and seeing how they react to loud noises, obstacles in their way and being stroked and fussed over. I was a very proud dog parent when she passed.
When reading time is over, the children all get a chance to give Scout a treat and a pat goodbye. Then for me and Scout it’s out the door, take her uniform off, and head straight to the park, where normal dog behaviour resumes: frantic frisbee-chasing, enthusiastic mud-rolling and, of course, a spot of friendly canine-bottom-sniffing. Well, she is a dog, after all.
Finding Floss: The Colour-changing Cockapoo! By Cara Matheson, illustrated by Mirna Imamovic, is published by Owlet Press, £7.99 paperback, out now.
Find Cara on: Instagram @cara_matheson_writer and Twitter @cara_writer
I love the role that reading to a non-judgemental partner plays in empowering children to assume the role of the master. Whether it’s to a younger child, teddy, or a therapy dog like Scout, the benefits of reading aloud and unchecked are massive. Well done to Cara and Scout for the important work you do.
Finding Floss: The Colour-Changing Cockapoo is out now and great for readers aged 3+
*Thank you to Owlet Press for sending me this title to review*