How Canine-Assisted Reading Can Help Your Child

Canine Assisted Reading

Do you have a struggling reader at home? Are you a teacher that is looking for a new and creative way to help your students with their reading skills? How about trying to increase your child’s confidence in their reading abilities? Check out how Canine Assisted Reading can help your child or student.

For this month of Research Tuesday, I wanted to explore Canine Assisted Reading and how it can help a child who struggles with reading. As a dog lover, I found this article interesting and wanted to share it with my readers.

What is Canine Assisted Reading? It is a form of animal assisted activity in which children read aloud to a dog that has been specially trained to work with children. I recently read an interesting article titled When Reading Gets Ruff (2013) by Holly B. Lane and Shannon D.W. Zavada. This article explores how Canine Assisted Reading affects a child’s reading fluency, motivation and confidence in reading. The results were significant but not surprising given the reasons.

What does the research say? According to Bailey (2010), researchers at the University of California-Davis conducted a series of studies of All Ears Reading Program in which children read regularly to three dogs that had been rescued from shelters. In one study of 3rd graders in a public school setting, “reading fluency improved by 12%”. In a second study, children who were being home schooled visited the university’s campus weekly where a canine assisted reading program was being conducted over a ten week period. The children read to the dogs for 15-20 minute periods each session. What were the results? The children’s reading fluency improved by 30% and 75% of the parents reported “that their children read aloud more frequently and with greater confidence after the student was completed” (Lane & Zavada, 2013). Research (Martin, 2001) also found that children who participated in canine assisted reading were more confident, completed their homework more regularly, reduced the amount of times they were late or absent and had a growing increase of empathy for dogs.

In the article, When Reading Gets Ruff (2013) by Holly B. Lane and Shannon D.W. Zavada, the author, discusses various case studies. In one case study, a golden retriever named Hope participates in a canine assisted reading program in a primary classroom in Florida. Shannon (who was the teacher and author of this article) had students in her classroom that were both below grade level with their reading skills and reluctant readers. She wanted to find a new and creative way to help her students. Shannon contacted her school administration regarding the program Reading Education Assistance Dogs Intermountain Therapy Animals (READ) and got the approval to begin Canine Assisted Reading in her classroom. There was a variety of steps that Shannon had to go through including meeting with parents, administration, etc. regarding the new program. Once this was complete, Hope came into the classroom to meet the students and get the children comfortable. Shannon devised a weekly schedule for the class so that every child would have two to three opportunities per week to read individually to Hope. Every morning students on the schedule were able to browse the library which included books about dogs and animals and then choose books to read to Hope. The sessions were 20 minutes long with each student in a quiet space. The teacher sat nearby to supervise and monitor progress but was not directly involved in this special reading time. Shannon reported significant gains in reading skills with her students over the course of the year and the children were also more confident and motivated to read. Many other teachers caught on to the idea and began this program in their classrooms. It was a huge success.

Why does Canine Assisted Reading work? Many struggling readers have a difficult time reading aloud to adults or peers because they may be self-conscious and feel judged. Many children thrive participating in Canine Assisted Reading because the dogs provide a safe and non threatening environment. In one study mentioned in this article by Friedmann, Katcher, Thomas, Lynch and Messent (1983), “the heart rate and blood pressure of children decreased when they were in contact with a dog while reading”. The more a child practices their reading, the better they get. The better they get with their reading skills, the more improved their reading fluency becomes. With this type of reading program, children also get the added benefits of increased confidence, motivation to read and empathy towards animals.

How can you find out more about Canine Assisted Reading? Do you want to get some recommendations for books about dogs? check out the full article here.

Some websites to browse regarding these programs that can helpful include Reading Education Assistance Dogs Intermountain Therapy Animals (READ), Canine Good Citizen Program, Delta Society, Therapy Dogs International and Library Dogs.


Lane, Holly B., and Shannon D.W. Zavada. “When Reading Gets Ruff: Canine-Assisted Reading Programs.” The Reading Teacher, 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. <>.



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