Ever try teaching a dog to read? implicit theories of reading ability

Elsie Moore, Terri Hlava, Steve L. Garcia, Sarah Brem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


When explaining academic outcomes in specific content areas, people reveal their implicit theories of academic ability. Those who hold an entity theory generally attribute differences in achievement to stable, uncontrollable factors. In contrast, those who hold an incremental theory take into account controllable psychological or environmental variables. Implicit theories affect motivation and are expected to crystallize by about fourth grade. This research examined changes in southwest suburban third graders' implicit theories of reading ability for self, others, and other species in a quasi-experimental, crossover design employing entity and incremental treatments. Seventy-one third-graders completed a 16-week reading program teaching a dog tasks that supported and challenged entity theories of what dogs can do. A therapy dog acted as our confederate because reading to dogs has been shown to improve children's reading skills, but not necessarily change their beliefs about reading ability, because beliefs are resistant to change and require personal experiences that encourage revision. Repeated measures analysis of co-variance (ANCOVA) revealed a significant change in students' theories of reading ability (F(1, 59) = 60.61, p < 0.001). Students' incremental scores increased following the entity condition (F(1, 64) = 1.165, p < 0.02); their entity scores decreased following both conditions (F(1, 59) = 21.90, p < 0.001). Students' implicit theories of reading ability for self, other, and other species did not differ; a significant effect of belief in dogs' reading ability (F(1, 59) = 29.04 p < 0.001) was observed. Implications for increasing children's reading motivation and achievement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-393
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Ability
  • Beliefs
  • Children
  • Dog
  • Reading
  • Teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Anthropology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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