Turning the Page for Spot: Exploring the Potential of Therapy Dogs to Support Reading Motivation and Positive Reading Behaviours Among Young Children
Animal-assisted literacy programs are growing in popularity as research continues to reveal their benefits for promoting children’s reading skills and positive reading behaviours. Struggling readers may benefit the most from canine-assisted literacy programs as these programs may increase children’s motivation to read, which in turn might be associated with improvements in children’s reading performance. However, little is known about how the context of canine-assisted literacy programs can help increase children’s motivation and persistence to read. The purpose of this proof of concept study was to assess the feasibility of engaging children with therapy dogs to help increase children’s reading motivation and persistence. We collected observational and self-report data from several sources (child participants, parents and researchers). Results of multivariate repeated-measures ANOVA with two levels (i.e. two-factor repeated measures design) revealed significant differences in reading motivation and reading persistence as a function of the presence or absence of a therapy dog when children were asked to read a challenging passage. Specifically, the children reported that they were more interested in reading and felt more competent reading a challenging passage when reading in the presence (versus absence) of a therapy dog. Additionally, the children individually spent more time reading in the presence (versus absence) of the therapy dog. The findings from this research will inform the development of animal-assisted literacy programs regarding the potential of canine-assisted reading programs to support children’s reading motivation and persistence.