Simply having a pup around them—regardless of breed or size—could enable children to power through more reading than ever.

By Zee Krstic
December 03, 2019

We all know how engaging and calming a pet can be, but many parents are concerned about the added pressure and work associated with raising a pet alongside children—could it be too disruptive of an environment to foster a good schedule? According to researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, having a dog around the house may actually foster a better learning environment for your kids; a new study shows that furry friends may motivate children to be more engaged in reading. Their research was just highlighted in a recently published issue of Anthrozoös, a journal that explores the links between humans and animals.

Miguel Sanz

How exactly did researchers discover this link, you might ask? Their findings stem from a smaller study conducted on 17 different children—eight girls and nine boys—in elementary school, ranging from grades one through three, who completed reading exercises in the company of dogs. Participants were selected because they could read on their own, and while they were tested to determine their reading range, the researchers behind the report chose books or stories that were all slightly advanced for them. During the test, the kids would read aloud—some would read to observers or dog handlers and their pets, while others just read for their observers without any dogs present. After finishing the first page of the text, they'd be offered the chance to continue reading or to stop; the tests averaged 12 minutes with a maximum of 24 minutes in all. 

Related: How to Read More—And Get Kids Reading, Too

Children who were reading with dogs chose to spend significantly more time reading, and showed more persistence in their task, compared to those children who didn't have access to a pet. More than 40 percent of kids involved chose to read the second part of the storybook when there wasn't a dog present—but 70 percent of those reading with their pets chose to continue doing so. Camille Rosseau, one of the study's authors, notes that those children who continued reading without a dog present were more likely to be stronger readers in their test group. She also noted that the children with pets felt "more interested and more competent," per a university release

The researchers' behind the study hopes that their findings could help established a new standard for canine-assisted therapy for young children who are struggling with reading and education in general. "There have been studies that looked at the impact of therapy dogs on enhancing students’ reading abilities, but this was the first study that carefully selected and assigned challenging reading to children," Rosseau said in the press release. This discovery could be particularly important for children with learning disabilities or those who are struggling to read.

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