Turning the Page for Spot: The Potential of Therapy Dogs to Support Reading Motivation Among Young Children

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Abstract

This study investigated whether dogs might facilitate a context conducive to reading for children when they are faced with a challenging reading passage. A within-subjects design was used to assess children’s motivation to read in two conditions: with a therapy dog and without a therapy dog. Seventeen children (8 girls; 9 boys) in Grades 1 to 3 (aged 6–8 years) and their parents participated in this study. Results of a multivariate repeated-measures ANOVA with two levels suggested that the presence of a therapy dog positively impacted children’s reading motivation and persistence when they were faced with the task of reading a challenging passage. Specifically, children confirmed feeling significantly more interested and more competent when reading in the presence (versus absence) of a therapy dog. Additionally, participants spent significantly more time reading in the presence of the therapy dog than when they read without the therapy dog present. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to use a within-subjects design to explore children’s reading motivation and reading persistence during a canine-assisted reading task. Moreover, as canine-assisted reading interventions assume that the reading context is one that may present a challenge, this research is unique because the reading passages were carefully selected and assigned to each participant to ensure that each child was provided with a challenging reading task. This research holds implications for the development of a gold-standard canine-assisted intervention for young struggling readers.

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Rousseau, C. X., & Tardif-Williams, C. Y. (2019). Turning the Page for Spot: The Potential of Therapy Dogs to Support Reading Motivation Among Young Children. Anthrozoos, 32(5), 665–677. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2019.1645511

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