Brock researchers partner with community groups on unique children’s learning initiative
Published on February 04 2014
Thanks to community support from a local Niagara school board and dog therapy program, a Brock University professor is researching the role that animals play in promoting basic social and emotional competencies in children.
The project, led by developmental psychologist Christine Tardif-Williams, is looking at children from St. David’s Public School who have been taking part in a “reading buddy” program offered by Therapy Tails Ontario, a non-profit group from Welland, Ont.
Every week Grade 1 and 2 students at the school are paired with a dog that they interact with and read to for about 20 minutes. The goal of the activity is to help develop a companion animal bond for the children in the context of a reading activity.
But Tardif-Williams’ research is about more than just observing children reading to a “dog buddy.”
“The research suggests that companion animals can serve as a social lubricant for shy children,” she says. “So the question we’re examining focuses on the impact of pairing children with a dog ‘reading buddy’ over the course of a year.”
“To what extent does this experience with the animals promote reading enjoyment and confidence and more empathic and prosocial responses toward both companion animals and peers following the program?”