The Impact of the Classroom Canines Program on Children’s Reading, Social/Emotional Skills and Motivation to Attend School

By Reesa Sorin, Tamara Brooks and Janice Lloyd.

Published by The International Journal of Literacies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 11, 2015 $US5.00

New, Wilson and Netting’s 1986 research demonstrated that domestic animals are an integral component of many people’s social support network. While such animals, particularly dogs, have since been successfully used as therapy dogs in clinical situations since the 1960s, sessions, dogs in the learning environment has only recently been trialled. Turner (2011) evaluated the use of dogs within the adult learning environment, ultimately concluding that dogs can be a beneficial bridge between adults and education. Jenkins (2009) and Sorin (2012) investigated the value of dogs within the primary school system, finding benefits including enhanced literacy, and improved social skills. Bassette and Taber-Doughty (2013) found that on-task behavior increased in primary school students with emotional and behavioural disabilities through a dog reading program.
Increasingly, the value of dogs within a variety of learning environments, is being recognized. In Australia, the Delta Society’s ‘Classroom Canines’ program, where children read to dogs, was developed to assist children with literacy and/or social/emotional skills. This research investigated the impact of the Classroom CaninesTM program on the reading, social/emotional skills and motivation to attend school of 11 students, aged 5 – 11, in a primary school in Australia. All students had been identified as falling below, or being at risk of falling below, the academic benchmarks for their year level. The study used both quantitative and qualitative data, including reading scores, attendance records, classroom observations, interviews with teachers and students, and researcher journals.

The study found that reading scores and attendance improved, but further that children were more motivated to learn, felt better about themselves as learners, and seemed to get along better with their peers.

Keywords: Dogs in Primary School Classroom, Dogs and Literacy Learning, Dogs and Social-Emotional Learning

The International Journal of Literacies, Volume 22, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.23-35. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 11, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 506.716KB)).

Assoc. Prof. Reesa Sorin

Associate Professor, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Tamara Brooks

Research assistant/ tutor, Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Janice Lloyd

Senior Lecturer, Veterinary Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia