The Effect of a Dog Assisted Reading Program on the Reading Ability and Motivation of Children with Dyslexia

Leilani B. Goodmon1, Pippa R. Burnett1, Renee Pack1, & Rebecca Powell2

1Department of Psychology, Florida Southern College
2School of Education, Florida Southern College

Dog assisted reading programs have been shown to improve children’s reading skills and attitudes toward reading (Kirnan et al., 2016; Levinson et al., 2017; Linder et al., 2018) and on-task behavior in children who struggle with reading (Bassette & Taber-Doughty, 2013). The purpose of this study was to determine if the benefits of reading to a therapy dog would generalize to a sample of 38 children (8-11 years of age) with dyslexia. We found that the children exhibited significant improvements in reading fluency from baseline to post-treatment. Teacher opinions of students’ reading attitude - motivation also improved from baseline to post-treatment. They also reported greater reading motivation and mood when they read to the dog (i.e., experimental condition) compared to when they read to the experimenter (i.e., control condition). Inconsistent with the hypotheses, there was no significant increase in comprehension scores or trait reading motivation from baseline to post-treatment, nor was there a significance increase in reading fluency between when they read to the dog compared to when they read to the experimenter. Some of these aforementioned results (i.e., teacher reports and reading mood and motivation) were age / grade dependent. The results imply that dog assisted reading programs may benefit the number of words read per minute, reading motivation, and mood of children with dyslexia, but not reading comprehension.
Keywords: therapy dog, children, dyslexia, reading, learning resources
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Leilani B. Goodmon, Department of Psychology, 111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, FL 33801, , (813) 431-1397.

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