Kids Read More in the Presence of Dogs: New Research

The children in the study were all enrolled in the first, second or third grade at the time of the testing, which was done in British Columbia

Well, this is sweet.

A new study out of British Columbia is reporting that — while it’s harder than ever today to get kids to settle down and develop some healthy reading habits — there now may be a happy and “furry solution” to the problem.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Okanagan found that sitting down with a book “in the presence of a pup” can help motivate our young ones to read more.

While the study was quite small, the results are interesting.

“The research team, led by doctoral student Camille Rousseau, studied the reading patterns of 17 children (8 girls, 9 boys) without a dog present, and then again with a dog nearby. Each child was currently enrolled in either the first, second, or third grade at the time of the study,” as reported.

“Our study focused on whether a child would be motivated to continue reading longer and persevere through moderately challenging passages when they are accompanied by a dog,” doctoral student Rousseau said in a release about the study.

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“Each participating child was selected” based on his or her independent reading skills, noted

“Before the experiment, each student was tested” to calculate his or her reading acumen and to ensure the children would be provided with appropriate books for their individual skills.

“However, researchers didn’t want the books to be too easy for the children, and chose books slightly harder than each child’s reading level.”

There is still much to be learned about why the presence of dogs seemed to motivate the young kids to read more.

Is it about accountability, encouragement, companionship — or all of the above? And do the dogs that apparently help kids stay more focused on reading have to be specially trained? And if that’s the case, what’s involved there?

“Specifically, children confirmed feeling significantly more interested and more competent when reading in the presence (versus absence) of a therapy dog,” the study noted.

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“Additionally, participants spent significantly more time reading in the presence of the therapy dog than when they read without the therapy dog present. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to use a within-subjects design to explore children’s reading motivation and reading persistence during a canine-assisted reading task.”

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of further research on “barking for books” — meanwhile, those of us who are lucky enough to have dogs in our lives can appreciate our beloved pets for one more positive quality.

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meet the author

Maureen Mackey served as editor-in-chief and managing editor of LifeZette for nearly five years. Before that, she held senior editorial positions at major publications, helping The Fiscal Times win a MIN Award for Best New Site as managing editor and Reader's Digest win an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence as book editor. Her work has appeared in Real Clear Politics, CNBC, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and The Week, among other outlets. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary.

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