Lauren Wood '13: "I want to see what is effective in getting children to read during
The children, ages 5 to 12, spend 25 minutes
reading to their furry friends.
Randolph-Macon College student Lauren Wood ’13 is conducting research
that combines dogs, children and books.
Wood’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
project is titled “Motivating Children to Read: An Evaluation of Summer Reading
Programs.” Wood, a Norfolk, Virginia native, is evaluating various summer-reading
programs to see if they can motivate children to continue to read during the summer.
One of the programs involves having children read to certified therapy dogs. Every
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening throughout the summer, the Ashland Public
Library is filled with the chatter of children reading to their canine friends.
The dogs’ handlers stay close by, and parents can watch from across the room.
“I want to see what is effective in getting children to read during the summer and
I want to find out what can make that motivation last year-round,” says Wood, a
psychology major. “In evaluating the effectiveness
of the program, I hope to discover if attachment to pets or feelings about reading
affect how the program works.”
Wood is working under the guidance of Psychology Professor Alva Hughes ’81. A cognitive
psychologist, Hughes says it can be very difficult to conduct this kind of research.
“Applied research is always a challenge,” she explains. “We are trying to balance
the design of the study with practical considerations, while still providing a real
service to the children in our community. Lauren is doing an excellent job. She
is very motivated, and she responds to both the aggravations and the joys of the
project with intellect, vivacity and humor.”
The children, ages 5 to 12, spend 25 minutes reading to their furry friends. On
a recent Tuesday evening, Bernard, a 5-year- old Collie mix, sat patiently next
to 10-year-old Dylan, who read The Season of the Sandstorm aloud. Bernard
also managed to perform a few tricks for Dylan.
“He is a very talented dog,” says Wood. “I really think the children enjoy reading
to him, and even those who don’t participate in the program are excited to see his
According to Wood, the program helps children gain confidence in their reading skills.
“The children never cease to surprise me,” she says. “One child shared his stickers
with the dog he read to, and even the older children benefit from the program. I
think reading aloud to the dogs will give the kids an edge in the classroom.” The
dogs, she says, also seem to enjoy the experience. “They love the attention,” she
says. “It’s great to see the kids and dogs interact.”
In addition to her participation in the SURF program, Wood is vice president of
Alpha Gamma Delta,
a Campus Ambassador, an Admissions tour guide, and
a member of Psi Chi,
Order of Omega, and
Hughes joined the faculty in 1991. Her areas of interest include everyday memory,
language, culture and cognition. Passionate about animals, she has also done extensive
research into how dogs solve problems and the impact that humans and dogs have on
each other. She earned her B.S. from R-MC and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University
of Maryland College Park.
SURF was introduced in 1995 as an endowment to
support scholarly undergraduate research by students in all disciplines. Students
conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under
the guidance of a faculty mentor. The initial gift for the program was made by Benjamin
Schapiro ’64 and his wife Peggy.