The Humane Society of Lebanon County, in Myerstown, Pennsylvania kicked off its new kids and cats “Story Tails” reading program yesterday on the Martin Luther King Day school holiday, as a group of 11 children from the Southeast Elementary School came the shelter by to read to the cats. The local paper, the Lebanon Daily News, visited the shelter for a story.
Each child is paired with a cat for a half-hour session that is beneficial to both – the child gets practice reading aloud for a non-judgmental audience and learns to have compassion for animals, and the cat is helped with socialization and gets some one-on-one companionship.
“A lot of the times the cats we get are afraid of humans. So, (reading) gets them more comfortable with people by hearing their voices and just by being around a physical presence,” the Humane Society’s communications director Kacy Hopkins said.
“There are a lot of studies where children being with animals can help with their social skills. And this teaches them kindness towards animals,” Hopkins said.
Francy Reigert, is a a fifth-grade teacher and co-adviser of student council at Southeast Elementary School. She introduced the idea to student council.
“I thought it would be an awesome opportunity for the kids to volunteer,” Reigert said.
“This is total volunteerism,” Reigert said. “I was excited to see a majority of kids wanted to participate and were able to come out on a day off we had from school.”
“The kids have been really excited. They keep wanting to read to more cats.” Reigert said. “They just wanted to get involved in the community and be present and do something fun, and they love to read.”
“It went really well. I was really impressed with both the kids and the cats,” Hopkins said. “I think it brought a lot of the kids out of their shell. It was nice to see the cats’ reactions, too.”