An evaluation of a dog-assisted reading program to support student wellbeing in primary school

Linda Henderson, Christine Grove, Felicia Lee, Louisa Trainer, Hannah Schena, Marcelle Prentice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Wellbeing is a critical aspect of children’s development since it holds a significant role in short- and long-term outcomes, including reading and academic success. Educational policies increasingly highlight the important role schools have in promoting children’s wellbeing. One approach gaining traction is the implementation of dog-assisted reading programs in schools. This paper reports on the evaluation of a dog-assisted reading program in Victoria, Australia on children’s perceived wellbeing. The dog-assisted reading program was the Story Dogs TM reading program based on the successful Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. The evaluation was conducted with primary school children during Term 2 of the academic school year. Qualitative methodologies were used to explore wellbeing over an eight-week period of involvement in the Story Dogs TM reading program. Participants included 11 children aged 7 to 8 years of age, 8 parents, 8 teachers and 6 dog handlers. Using semi-structured interviews all participants were interviewed at the end of the eight-week period with the aim of generating rich textual data. The thematic analysis of the semi-structured interviews will be reported and discussed suggesting the program may have potentially enhanced children’s perceived wellbeing, particularly in relation to promoting positive engagement and a sense of achievement when reading. Limitations are addressed including the timing of evaluation in second term of the school year after the program has already commenced. Implications will be noted including the importance of clear communication between handlers and teachers as well as the importance of larger-scale studies to generate more robust empirical evidence for the use of dog-assisted reading programs in primary school.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Dog-assisted reading program
  • Therapy dogs
  • Student wellbeing

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