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Literacy Lab

Literacy Lab

Collaborative research practices, to understand and improve children and young people's literacy experiences and outcomes

Reading to Dogs

2019 – 2022

Reading to dogs (RTD) is rising in popularity and implementation across UK schools, yet there is very little high-quality research exploring the effectiveness of RTD and the features of RTD programmes to optimally promote positive reading and wellbeing outcomes for pupils.




As part of her PhD research, Jill Steel firstly explored teachers’ perspectives of RTD, examining their perceptions of the benefits and challenges associated with RTD in the classroom. You can access this paper here:

Steel, J., Williams, J. M., & McGeown, S. (2021). Reading to dogs in schools: An exploratory study of teacher perspectives. Educational Research


Following this, Jill co-designed a RTD intervention with teachers, Paws and Learn, to support children’s reading affect and emotional wellbeing.  You can learn more about this process here:

Steel, J, Williams, J., & McGeown, S. (2022) Teacher-researcher collaboration in animal-assisted education: Co-designing a reading to dogs intervention. Educational Research. 10.1080/00131881.2021.2016061


Lastly, Jill evaluated Paws and Learn in a mixed methods study, focusing on both implementation and effectiveness. You can access this paper here:

Steel, J.  (2023). Reading to Dogs in schools: A controlled feasibility study of an online reading to dogs intervention.  International Journal of Educational Research, 117,


If you are interested in learning more about Reading to Dog’s research, this article provides an up-to-date review of the area:

Steel, J. (2023): Reading to dogs as a form of animal assisted education: are positive outcomes supported by quality research.  Literacy,


If you would like to learn more about this project, this video describes the RTD programme, Paws and Learn:


This research was funded by the Principal’s Career Development Scholarship, University of Edinburgh. For more information, contact Jill Steel:


Project Team:

PhD Researcher, Jill Steel, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh

First Supervisor: Dr Sarah McGeown, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh

Second Supervisors: Dr Deborah Holt, Moray House School of Education and Sport, and Professor Jo Williams, Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh.


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