Therapy Dogs Could Be The Solution For Struggling Readers

Although some children progress easily from letters to sounds to words, others have a very tough time. When a child struggles with reading, their entire educational experience suffers. Educators and parents are always looking for meaningful, effective ways to increase reading engagement among children, especially when they are not reading on grade level. Therapy dogs can be part of the solution.

One Part of the Problem? Reader Engagement

We all encounter tasks or skills that we find challenging, confusing, or mind boggling. It’s human nature to avoid spending any more time than is strictly necessary in a struggle. Kids who struggle to read are no different. They will perform whatever reading tasks are absolutely required of them from parents, teachers, or life in general. But given the chance to keep reading or walk away and do something else, they are going to move along. One of the ways we can improve the reading skills of early readers is by finding ways to keep them engaged. The more time those noses are stuck in books, the better their reading will be.

One Part of the Solution? Therapy Dogs!

More and more, schools are recognizing the potential of therapy dogs to improve the educational experience and academic performance of students. They are on campuses across the country to bring emotional support to students so that students can access academic pursuits more successfully. A recent study from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan found that therapy dogs just may be an important part of the solution to increase reading engagement among those struggling to read.

Therapy Dogs Helped Kids Feel More Interested and Competent

The study was lead by doctoral student Camille Rousseau. The study group consisted of 19 kids in grades 1-3 whose reading acumen was accessed prior to the onset of the study. Kids were presented with reading material that was slightly above their assessed level so that it would be a bit challenging. 

“Our study focused on whether a child would be motivated to continue reading longer and persevere through moderately challenging passages when they are accompanied by a dog,” Rousseau said in a press release.

Each child was asked to read aloud with and without a therapy dog in the room. In both cases, the kids were asked if they wanted to continue reading after they finished the first page of the story they were given. 

“The findings showed that children spent significantly more time reading and showed more persistence when a dog—regardless of breed or age—was in the room as opposed to when they read without them,” Rousseau said. “In addition, the children reported feeling more interested and more competent.”

Rousseau pointed out that this study was the first to carefully select and assign reading material aimed at challenging the reader. The study could be instrumental in developing best practices for therapy dog intervention strategies for children who are struggling to read up to established standards.

H/T study

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