Children aged seven to 11 years, who read aloud to dogs for 30 minutes in a week, showed improvement in their reading skills.
London,May31:A new study has found that children aged seven to 11 years, who read aloud to dogs for 30 minutes in a week, showed improvement in their reading skills.
Reading skills are often associated with improved academic performance and positive attitudes about school in children.
Researchers from Tufts University wanted to learn if animal-assisted intervention in the form of reading aloud to dogs in a classroom setting could contribute to improved skills and attitudes.
“One of the most important aspects of facilitating reading skill development is motivating a child to engage in reading,” said senior author Lisa Freeman.
“Our results suggest that reading to dogs in an academic setting has the potential to provide motivation, which will help inform future research into this animal-assisted intervention,” Linder added.
Corresponding author Deborah Linder said that 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.
For the study, second-grade public school students were divided into two groups.
To be eligible to participate, children had to meet the guidelines for average second grade literacy skills, as measured by Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), a tool used by the school to assess reading skills.
For six weeks, one group read to a therapy dog for 30 minutes once a week; a control group followed a standard classroom curriculum.
Children’s reading skills were assessed biweekly and attitudes about reading were assessed pre- and post-intervention.
Proper training and health requirements were put in place to ensure the health and safety of the animals, their handlers and the children involved.
The study participants read passages aloud for one minute while teachers assessed their ability to read and comprehend the passage.
The results revealed that the scores assessing academic reading attitudes increased significantly among the children who read aloud to dogs.
Reading skill scores did not change significantly in either group, nor did attitudes about recreational reading outside of school.
The research appeared online in the Early Childhood Education Journal.