Authors: Jenny Gu and Sarah Wright
Publication: DECP Debate
Educators are increasingly seeking innovative interventions to improve children’s reading skills through enhancing their reading enjoyment, motivation, and frequency. One such approach is through canine-assisted reading interventions in schools, which involve children reading aloud to therapy dogs and their handlers. The popularity of this approach is growing, with the development and delivery of numerous programmes and organisations worldwide. Given increasing interest in canine-assisted reading programmes in schools, there is a need to subject these interventions to scientific scrutiny, to evaluate the extent to which they are grounded in psychological theory, determine their efficacy for improving reading outcomes, and inform their implementation. In this critique, an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of reading aloud to dogs is first presented. Intervention effects are explained in terms of attachment theory, attentional control theory, and self-determination theory. The current critique also includes the first systematic review examining the effects of school-based canine-assisted interventions, compared to control conditions, on children’s reading outcomes. Findings from nine controlled studies are discussed. Currently, there is mixed and limited evidence for the efficacy of school-based canine-assisted reading interventions, compared to control conditions, on children’s reading skills, attainment, and attitude. Implications for practice and intervention implementation are considered.
This is a pre-publication version of the following article:
(2023) Does Reading Aloud to a Dog Improve Children’s Reading Outcomes? An Academic Critique DECP Debate, 185, 22-41. DOI: 10.53841/bpsdeb.2023.1.185.22