A DUNFERMLINE youngster who was struggling to read, has read their first book – to a dog.

The introduction of therapet dog Ozzy – and his owner Gail – is something which has enhanced classroom life at Lynburn Primary School.

Nurture teacher Emily Laranja told the Press: "Small groups of children read to him. Ozzy has such a calming influence on our children, the insecurities and anxieties they have about reading are forgotten.

"The kids are really keen to read to Ozzy; they are fully engaged and motivated. One child, who had previously refused to engage in reading, read their first ever book to Ozzy. It was such a powerful moment."

It's part of a range of initiatives to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing which have been helping youngsters at the school.

The ideas – including regular visits from Ozzy – are already proving to be a great success.

A showcase to parents had been planned to take place this week but was cancelled with the closure of schools to most pupils.

Ms Laranja said they aimed to roll out a "wellbeing for all" strategy which she hopes will become the mantra for the school.

"At Lynburn, we put emotional wellbeing at the centre of what we do," she said. "We see behaviour as a symptom of something deeper – if a child is displaying distressed behaviours we are curious about what might be behind it and, more importantly, how we can support that child to be the best version of themselves, enabling them to better engage in learning.

"Relationships are central to what we do, we want our kids to feel safe and valued. Furthermore, positive relationships have a buffering effect on adversity."

The school has a nurture classroom which is timetabled throughout the week and starts the day with a health breakfast sitting round a table where children take turns to talk.

"We know that cortisol levels (the stress hormone) are higher in the morning and some children benefit from a softer start to the day. We run cooking classes where children learn to safely use kitchen equipment and prepare healthy meals, they learn how to measure and weigh ingredients and collaborate in order to read recipes and take turns. They have cooked lunch for their parents, peers and teachers."

A Samba band has also been formed in the school as Ms Laranja discovered that drumming can have a therapeutic effect on children's brains.

"It can reduce impulsivity, boost the immune system, increase happiness, release negative emotions and put them in the present moment. Based on this, we have formed a Samba band," she said.

"The children have picked it up quickly. The collectiveness in creating a purposeful rhythm can also induce a sense of belonging, which is fundamental to what we do. Trauma and adversity can make you feel as though you don’t belong, it can detach you from yourself and others."

Specially-developed nurture boxes are being used in class to comfort children while the school has its own mindfulness teacher who is working wonders with parents, teachers and children.

"Our headteacher, Louise Macilhatton, has invested heavily in the emotional wellbeing of our school. Not only does she encourage teachers and pupil support assistants to upskill and develop their knowledge on mental health, she empowers us to run with our ideas and initiatives," added Ms Laranja. "We are currently developing a mentally-healthy workplace and our ethos is extending to all adults in the school.

"If we look after ourselves it means we are better equipped to look after the wellbeing of our children. You can’t pour from an empty cup."