The program in Missouri wants to aid children in improving their reading abilities as well as their social skills by reading to dogs in the shelter.
As part of the Shelter Buddies Reading Program at the Humane Society of Missouri, little kids are encouraged to practice reading to timid shelter dogs, to help acclimate them with human contact.
Children have the opportunity to read like no one is watching and the dogs can learn to make human friends.
Dogs in a shelter environment tend to exhibit timid and anxious behaviors, which unfortunately lowers their chances of being adopted. According to the Humane Society of Missouri, dogs that appear friendly and approach the window are more likely to find a potential home, therefore the reading program is a positive step in comforting the behaviorally challenged pets.
In order to participate in the program, kids who are 6-15 years take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to read a dog’s body language, so they can see if the animal is stressed or nervous. If they see such a dog in the kennel, the children are encouraged to sit outside the shy canine’s pen and read to them. Even dogs with a ton of energy have found these events to be beneficial, since the children’s voices tend to relax them. The kids’ parents are even welcome bring them back to the shelter anytime, as long as they are supervised.
As for the kids themselves, they’re also benefiting from this program, but not only because it’s helping them practice their reading skills. “It’s encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It’s a peaceful, quiet exercise. They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive effect they can have,” JoEllyn Klepacki, assistant director of education at the Humane Society of Missouri, explained. “It encourages them to look at things from an animal’s perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
In the future, Klepacki hopes to expand the Shelter Buddies Reading Program to all of the Humane Society of Missouri’s shelters and even to cat sanctuaries as wel