“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” ― Jean Cocteau

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Children Reading to Shelter Cats – Everyone Wins!

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An innovative program in the United States and Canada has brought together children and shelter cats in a delightful and loving manner. In Berks County, Pennsylvania, the Animal Rescue League (ARL) has begun a program they call "Book Buddies". It’s a program that brings children together with shelter cats that need attention and socialization. Every week, about 30 children read to the cats that are waiting to find their forever homes.

Designed for children in grades 1-8, reading at any level, the program invites them to come into the shelter to read to the cats in the adoption room. Everyone benefits in this situation as for the children, especially shy children; the cats offer a safe and non-judgmental audience for practicing their reading skills. Many teachers and parents are reporting improvement in many children’s reading skills because they are reading more often. Many of the children have gone from not liking to read to really enjoying it and having more confidence in their reading skills. It’s often much easier for them to read to a cat then humans.

cat stories

As for the shelter cats, the interaction with children is a wonderful thing. They love (and need) the extra attention and seem to enjoy the sound of the children’s voices when reading. Interaction with the children is good for the cats as it keeps them well socialized to people and a chance to interact with children if they have never done so before. It also gives the shelter workers good information on the temperament of the cat. This information is helpful when they are recommending a cat to a new family that has children. Often cats are surrendered to the shelter and it is not known how they react to children and if they would be good in a family situation. Another benefit is that shelter life can be hard on cats; and this program is a wonderful addition to the hard work shelter caretakers do to keep them happy and healthy.

As for the cats, what do they enjoy listening to? Do they enjoy mystery stories, mouse stories or cat stories? “It doesn’t matter to them [the cats] what the book is about, how well the child is reading to them or anything like that,” said Kristi Rodriguez, a volunteer and program coordinator at the center. “They just love the one-on-one contact that the kids provide.”

But “Book Buddies” isn’t the only program of this kind. There are several organizations that pair children up with dogs such as Library Dogs, Reading with Rover and Tail Wagging Tales. And there is even a program where children read to horses - the Black Stallion Literacy Project!

What can be better, animals getting some much needed attention and children learning to read – it’s a win win situation for all involved!


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