A PIONEERING initiative which encourages youngsters to read more has received a warm welcome from education experts, parents and children.

Already a massive success in America, Reading Education Assistance Dogs (Read) are specially-trained to sit with children and encourage them to enjoy books and reading.

Scotts is the country’s first trained reading dog and he visits schools and libraries in the county on a regular basis. His latest visit, with handler Tony Nevett, was to Wellingborough library at the weekend.

Scotts has been trained to sit with children while they read out loud and Dean Brookes, community access librarian at Wellingborough, was delighted with the results.

He said: “Scotts is the UK’s first Read dog and the children really took to him. Sometimes youngsters don’t like to read to adults because they feel they are being judged but feel a lot happier reading to a dog like Scotts.

“Lots of children went over to him and it was a real success. Scotts will certainly be coming back to the library.”

A spokesman for Read said: “Participating children make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence and social skills.”

Eleanor Bettles, six, said: “I really enjoyed it and it was great fun reading to Scotts.”

Mother-of-two Emma Hornett, 33, of Ambleside Close, Wellingborough, has two children, Ben, nine, and seven-year-old Imogen, who attend Hardwick Infants School, in Olympic Way.

She said: “The reading dog comes into Imogen’s school quite regularly and I’ve heard it has had some great results.

“The reading dog goes round the reception year and it seems to be very popular with all the children.

“Anything which helps encourage children to read has to be a good thing and I would like to see this idea take off.”

A county council education spokesman said: “Any initiative that gets young people reading is welcomed. It’s also important for parents to help encourage their children to start reading. By turning their reluctance into enthusiasm, they will be helping their child develop literacy skills and maybe develop a love of books that will be with them forever.”