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Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention on Reading Skills and Attitudes in Second Grade Students


Reading skills are an important component of academic success for school-age youth, and are associated with increased academic performance and positive attitudes about school. The presence of an animal appears to reduce stress during reading. Therefore, the goal of this study was to assess the feasibility and effects of a 6-week after-school canine-assisted reading program in a public elementary school setting. Second-grade students were randomized to either an intervention group (n = 14) in which they read to a registered therapy dog for 30 min once weekly for 6 weeks or a control group (n = 14) with a standard classroom curriculum. Children’s reading skills were assessed biweekly and attitudes about reading were assessed pre- and post-intervention. The 6-week after-school canine-assisted reading program was feasible. Reading skill scores did not change significantly for either group. Although scores on recreational reading attitudes also did not change significantly for either group, the academic reading attitudes scores increased significantly in the intervention group (p = .002), but not in the control group (p = .06). These results support the benefits of an animal-assisted intervention for child literacy on children’s attitudes about reading and can inform future programs evaluating reading programs that include dogs.

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The project described was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Award Number KL2TR001063. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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Correspondence to Deborah E. Linder.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Animal Rights

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Linder, D.E., Mueller, M.K., Gibbs, D.M. et al. Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention on Reading Skills and Attitudes in Second Grade Students. Early Childhood Educ J 46, 323–329 (2018).

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  • Animal-assisted intervention
  • Reading
  • Human-animal interaction
  • Child literacy
  • Attitudes towards reading
  • ERAS