Perceptions of Animal Assisted Reading and its Results Reported by Involved Children, Parents and Teachers of a Portuguese Elementary School

Elsa Canelo
NOVA University Lisbon

This article presents preliminary results of a longitudinal qualitative study of a small-sample trial of Animal Assisted Reading (AAR), designed to overcome reading difficulties of second grade children in an elementary school in Lisbon’s outskirts, through reading sessions to a “listening dog”. The AAR trial was carried out between October 2016 and June 2017. The article deals with findings concerning the participant schoolchildren’s, their parents’ and their teachers’ perceptions before and after the trial was run, framed by Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development. I interviewed 12 subjects – five students, one parent of each of them, and two teachers – before and after the trial was run, in order to compare the children’s initial and final self-concept regarding reading to others, as well as the expectations they, their parents and teachers held and their final assessments of AAR. I did a descriptive qualitative analysis of interview transcripts to extract and compare the relevant data on these items. Initially, all students had negative self-concept regarding reading, and all but one tended to avoid the task of reading aloud to others. After AAR, all but one appreciated reading aloud without fearing exposure. The initial expectations of students, parents, and teachers about AAR were very high to begin with, and in the end all stated those expectations had been met, acknowledging further benefits besides reading improvement. The findings suggest AAR had a positive impact in both the school and the family microsystems of the children’s development.

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