Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Berry, Ed.D., Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Imandeep Grewal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, Ph.D.


This mixed-methods research study focuses on students’, teachers’, and parents’ perceptions of the influence therapy dogs in schools can have on reluctant readers’ attitudes about reading and motivation to read at school and at home as well as exploring changes in the participants' oral fluency. Eight student participants read to our school therapy dog in a 1:1 setting two times each week throughout a six-week period. Before beginning the sessions, each student completed a reading perception survey to serve as a baseline for each child's motivation to read. Each student was also interviewed, seeking information about each child's feelings about reading as well as thoughts that reflect how each child perceived themselves as a reader. Surveys were administered to the student participants' teachers in order to gain information regarding their perceptions about their students' reading motivation prior to and after the therapy dog reading sessions. Surveys were also given to the student participants' parents/guardians after the reading pilot to gain their perception about their children's reading motivation. Additionally, the researcher reviewed fluency assessment scores administered both before and after the reading pilot as part of their literacy intervention program to compare scores. Each child's motivation to read both before and after they read to the therapy dog were explored through the lens of the student, their teacher, their parent/guardian, and their literacy interventionist. The researcher examined their perceptions to determine if using therapy dogs in schools to supplement literacy intervention could be a worthwhile endeavor. Overwhelmingly, the students shared how reading to the therapy dog made them feel happier and more comfortable. The majority of parents/guardians observed increases in their child’s interest in reading. The students’ classroom teachers shared that the majority of their students were more motivated at the end of the pilot. The overall fluency data did not demonstrate a significant change for the majority of students.