A recent study shows that literacy improves when students read to therapy dogs.
“Previous studies have evaluated the impact of therapy dogs in children’s literacy programs outside of the academic setting, including our previous research evaluating children reading to dogs in a library program,” said Deborah Linder, research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts and associate director of Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction. “However, little has been done to assess the effects of this type of reading program in schools, where children may experience greater stress, challenging social situations and fear of negative feedback.”
Second grade public school students were divided into two groups in the pilot study. They were required to meet guidelines for average second grade literacy skills as measured by Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.
The control group followed a normal classroom routine, and the other students read to a therapy dog for 30 minutes a week, once a week for six weeks.
Reading skills were assessed biweekly, and student attitudes about reading were assessed prior to the study and afterward.
Reading skill scores and attitudes toward recreational reading outside school did not change much for either group of students. There were significantly improved attitudes toward reading among the group that read to the therapy dogs.