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Children Reading to Dogs: A Systematic Review of the Literature

By S. S. Hall, N. R. Gee, D. S. Mills

Category Journal Articles

Despite growing interest in the value of human-animal interactions (HAI) to human mental and physical health the quality of the evidence on which postulated benefits from animals to human psychological health are based is often unclear. To date there exist no systematic reviews on the effects of HAI in educational settings specifically focussing on the perceived benefits to children of reading to dogs. With rising popularity and implementation of these programmes in schools, it is essential that the evidence base exploring the pedagogic value of these initiatives is well documented.

Using PRISMA guidelines we systematically investigated the literature reporting the pedagogic effects of reading to dogs. Because research in this area is in the early stages of scientific enquiry we adopted broad inclusion criteria, accepting all reports which discussed measurable effects related to the topic that were written in English. Multiple online databases were searched during January-March 2015; grey literature searches were also conducted. The search results which met the inclusion criteria were evaluated, and discussed, in relation to the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine levels of evidence; 27 papers were classified as Level 5, 13 as Level 4, 7 as Level 2c and 1 as Level 2b.

The evidence suggests that reading to a dog may have a beneficial effect on a number of behavioural processes which contribute to a positive effect on the environment in which reading is practiced, leading to improved reading performance. However, the evidence base on which these inferences are made is of low quality. There is a clear need for the use of higher quality research methodologies and the inclusion of appropriate controls in order to draw causal inferences on whether or how reading to dogs may benefit children’s reading practices. The mechanisms for any effect remain a matter of conjecture.

Date 2016
Publication Title PLoS One
Volume 11
Issue 2
Pages e0149759
ISBN/ISSN 1932-6203
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0149759
Language English
Author Address School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom.WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Waltham on the Wolds, Leicestershire, United Kingdom.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adolescents
  2. Animals
  3. Child development
  4. Children
  5. Dogs
  6. Evidence
  7. Humans
  8. Mental health and well-being
  9. open access
  10. preschools
  11. Reading
  1. open access