Reading aloud is a terrific way for children to boost their reading skills. And dogs and cats make wonderful listeners. These two simple truths have inspired popular programs that allow children to visit shelters and read to dogs and cats that need to spend quiet time with people to improve their chances of being adopted. “We let them read aloud to a cat, and it just does something really special,” Liz Ford of the Iowa City Animal Care Center told KFOR TV. “These cats aren’t going to correct their pronunciation.” Recent studies by research teams at the University of California Davis and Tufts University reveal that children who read aloud to therapy dogs and shelter cats on a regular basis show “drastic improvement” in their reading skills, according to Paws to Read, which connects parents, children and animal lovers.
Ford said the center’s Read to the Paw program is helping both children and pets. “It’s a win-win situation,” she said. “The cats are soothed and socialized by the young reader’s voice, and students are able to strengthen their reading skills and build confidence by reading out loud in front of a non-judgmental audience,” shelter officials said in a news release.
Other shelters have launched similar programs. Sometimes the children sit outside cages and read to a cat or dog. Other shelters let the children visit one-on-one under adult supervision. So that a child can experience reading with a dog or cat curled up in their lap. The Dog Ears Reading program in Aiken, South Carolina lets children cuddle and read.
“When I’m reading, it will come close to me and put its head on my lap,” said fifth grader Chei’Yianne Willams, who is seen reading to a calm four-year-old bulldog in a recent report by WJBF Channel 6.
“The animals, for the most part, can’t get enough of this,” said Ellie Joos, Event Chair for Friends of the Animal Shelter at the Aiken County Animal Shelter. The Animal Rescue League of Berks County has its own successful Book Buddies program. And the Humane Society of Missouri brings kids and pets together through Shelter Buddies: “Reading to the dogs helps to bring comfort to and reduce the anxiety of shelter pets, and it nurtures empathy in children.”