The objectives of the proposed study were twofold:
- To evaluate the effect of participation in the Listening EARS program on third grade students’ reading ability
- To demonstrate and document the viability of using small animals, as opposed to trained therapy dogs, in school-based reading programs
To meet Objective 1, we tested the hypothesis that students participating in the Listening EARS would demonstrate greater gains in oral fluency and reading comprehension than those who did not participate in the program.
To meet Objective 2, we conducted a process evaluation that included a collection of qualitative data from teachers, school administrators, students, and parents to assess: 1) levels of satisfaction with the program, 2) ease of integration into the curriculum, and 3) barriers to facilitators of program implementation.
We found that after comparing pre- and posttest scores within groups it was determined that changes were observed in both groups with Group 1 demonstrating more improvement in reading skills than Group 2. However, the result is not statistically significant between the two groups.
With respect to Objective 2, we conducted a process evaluation that included a collection of qualitative data from teachers, school administrators, students and parents. A final evaluation of the Listening EARS program from individual parent responses indicated that the students who participated in the animal interaction experiences reported a difference in their enjoyment and attitudes toward school while participating in this study. These responses were communicated in a final survey that gave parents an opportunity to gauge their child’s attitudes toward school and reading opportunities with the rabbits.