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Grade 2 Children Experience a Classroom-based Animal-assisted Literacy Mentoring Program: An Interpretive Case Study

  • Author / Creator
    Friesen, Lori A
  • Despite the growing popularity of animal-assisted literacy programs in North America and abroad, little research has examined how children experience these programs or what their significance may be for participating children in the elementary classroom context. Designed as an interpretive case study into one Grade 2 classroom over 10 weeks, this study explored the questions: How do children experience literacy learning with a dog and an adult mentor? What significance do animal-assisted literacy learning experiences have for children? Drawing on contemporary, cross-disciplinary research exploring the human-animal-bond (HAB) with children in school and therapeutic settings and research examining school-based mentoring programs, this study explored the potential for unique forms of social, emotional, and academic support for children when they engaged in animal-assisted literacy learning sessions. Insights from this study suggest that animal-assisted literacy mentoring programs can offer children valuable forms of social, emotional, and academic support in the classroom context. Specifically, four main themes emerged inductively from the data: (1) Animal-assisted literacy sessions drew the consistent and enthusiastic participation of all of the children in the classroom and were viewed as anticipated escapes from typical school routines; (2) These sessions invited playful, imaginative literacy teaching and learning opportunities for group participants; (3) Novel and familial modes of interrelationship within these sessions transformed the network of relationships among group members, and finally; (4) The students' positive, transformative associations with literacy in the broader school context and in their home literacy lives collectively contributed to a carnivalesque climate of literacy support. This study suggests that while the adult and dog can be defined as 'literacy mentor teams' during animal-assisted literacy learning sessions, this term provides a necessary but insufficient description of the nature of the interactions among group members. Given these insights, future research is warranted to explore the experiences and significance of animal-assisted literacy learning for children in other grade levels and in other socio-cultural contexts.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2012-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3D090
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Joyce Bainbridge (Education)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Carol Leroy (Education)
    • Fern Snart (Education)
    • Mary Jalongo (Education)
    • Christina Rinaldi (Education)