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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Fostering Literacy Learning with Three Middle School Special-Education Students Using Therapy Dogs as Reading Partners
by Lamkin, Donna, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2017, 272; 10683497
Abstract (Summary)

This case study explored dog-assisted reading with three middle-school special education students in a self-contained alternative school. Data collection conducted over a 15-month period included observations, interviews, and artifacts. In this study, reading with therapy dogs and their handlers, helped three adolescent readers with their reading motivation, engagement, and literacy processes/behaviors. The students’ engagement with the dog, the role of the dog handler, and the role of the context all impacted students in different and multiple ways.

The students read to the dogs and liked engaging with them—this calmed and interested each student and created a purpose for reading. Concurrently, through the handler’s vocabulary supports, questions, comments, and book choices, the students also became more attentive to their own reading performance. Students began to self-monitor, self-correct, and discuss stories. As the study transitioned from an office setting to the classroom, the dog and handler continued as reading partners, now with a growing audience of additional students and staff. Students talked and interacted with books in a way that bypassed reading level, behavior issues and computer-based comprehension questions, ultimately forming a community of readers.

Recommendations encourage school personnel to intentionally structure and integrate dog-assisted reading teams for literacy learning, with training sessions for handlers to learn how to engage with books, listen carefully to readers, and notice when students need additional support. Professional development can help classroom teams better integrate dog-assisted reading and literature-based instructional approaches. Importantly, providing a wide range of reading materials during dog-assisted time can support students to engage as readers in multiple ways.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dozier, Cheryl L.
Commitee: Goatley, Virginia, Walmsley, Sean
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Literacy Teaching and Learning (Reading)
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle School education, Education, Special education, Reading instruction
Keywords: Dog-assisted reading, Literacy learning, Middle school special education, Motivating students to read, Reading to dogs, Therapy dogs in education
Publication Number: 10683497
ISBN: 978-0-355-52452-9
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