Deakin University researcher Dr Tony Chalkley has launched a fundraising campaign for a study into how therapy dogs raise literacy levels among primary school students.
A well-regarded researcher and lecturer in media communication and former primary school teacher, Tony is also the owner of a Delta Society-certified therapy dog named Squirt.
Tony and Squirt have spent many hours in primary school classrooms and witnessed some remarkable changes when children read books to Squirt.
“It’s a little bit magical the way kids who are normally ‘reluctant readers’ line up to read with Squirt the therapy dog,” says Tony.
“The simple act of patting and talking with the dog triggers the desire to share stories from the children’s own ‘pet history’. Most kids seem to start by talking about the animals they’ve owned, then they talk about life events that have happened with and because of these pets and, finally, sharing how they felt as a result.”
“What is it about reading to a canine friend that gets kids to pick the biggest book they can find? Every week! Something really fantastic happens when kids read to Squirt – their confidence just soars – and I’d like to find out why.”
During the proposed 12-month field study, named Read2Spot, Tony hopes to better understand the role and value of therapy animals in the everyday school life of children.
The resulting data will be used to support existing pet and animal therapy programs, improve and expand the training of handlers, and develop new and innovative ways to develop literacy skills in the classroom.
The Read2Spot fundraising campaign is hosted on Pozible and seeks to raise $8,400 to cover expenses including travel costs for therapy dogs and their handlers, engaging Honours students for project support, purchasing reward stickers for the kids and, of course, Shmackos treats for canine workers like Squirt. The campaign ends on 5 June.
Read2Spot is one of four current projects by Deakin University researchers seeking funding as part of Research My World, an ongoing partnership between Pozible and the university.
(Source: Deakin University)