Will Reading to Rabbits Improve Student Skills?

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Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Grant to Study Children Reading to Classroom Pets

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The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $13,000 grant to the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies for a new study, Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Affect Reading Skills of Third Grade Students?, to uncover how reading aloud to a non-threatening presence, like a classroom rabbit, helps improve students’ reading skills.

“The human-animal bond can lessen the stress young children can feel when taking on challenging tasks in the classroom, like reading aloud,” said Dr. Annie Petersen, Ed.D., Principal Investigator in the Listening EARS study. “This study will provide us with a valuable tool to understand and act on the benefits of small animals to student learning and development.”

By utilizing small animals already present in classrooms (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs), it is predicted that classroom interactions with an animal will improve 3rd grade students’ oral fluency and reading comprehension, two essential measures of academic success.

“HABRI is committed to studying the impact of companion animals on child health and development,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “This new research will contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of pets in the classroom.”

The 12-month study will use the 2015-2016 school year to examine two groups of 50 3rd grade students from the same elementary school; one receiving Listening EARS three times a week for 20 minutes and the other will receive usual instruction. Teachers and school administrators will also be interviewed as well as focus groups conducted with students to gather qualitative data, which will be analyzed via content analysis.

Founded by sponsors Petco, the American Pet Products Association, and Zoetis, the HABRI Foundation maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; to date has funded more than half a million dollars in innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information about the HABRI Foundation, visit http://www.habri.org.

The Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies is a research-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization comprised of professionals in the fields of animal welfare, education, child development, and public health. The Association strives to explore the complex relationships between people and animals through scientific research. For more information, please visit http://www.animalbondstudies.org.


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