Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 655–673 | Cite as

The Effect of an Animal-Assisted Reading Program on the Reading Rate, Accuracy and Comprehension of Grade 3 Students: A Randomized Control Study

  • Marieanna C. le RouxEmail author
  • Leslie Swartz
  • Estelle Swart
Original Paper



Animal-assisted therapy has been widely used with students. This study is the first known investigation into the impact of an animal-assisted reading program on reading skills, employing an experimental pre-test/post-test control group design and controlling for the effects of extra attention to student’s reading.


The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects of an animal-assisted reading program on the reading rate, accuracy and comprehension of grade 3 students.


Students identified by the ESSI Reading Test as poor readers (N = 102) were randomly assigned to three experimental groups and one control group. Twenty-seven students read to a dog in the presence of a Pets as Therapy volunteer, 24 students read directly to an adult, while 26 students read to a teddy bear in the presence of an adult. Students in the control group (n = 25) were not part of the program and continued with their normal school activities. Data collection took place before the start of the program (Time 1), directly after completion of the 10-week reading program (Time 2), and again 8 weeks after the completion of the program (Time 3).


Mixed method analysis of variance revealed significant interaction between group and time on the Neale reading comprehension scores with the “dog group” scoring higher than the three other groups.


The animal-assisted reading program had an impact on some of the reading skills of the students who read to a dog. The program is flexible and can be applied in a variety of settings.


Animal-assisted reading program Grade 3 students Reading intervention South Africa 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marieanna C. le Roux
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leslie Swartz
    • 1
  • Estelle Swart
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

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