We can never read enough stories about the powerful, therapeutic bonds between animals and people, so we definitely got all the feels when we saw kids reading to animal shelter pets. As part of the Shelter Buddies Reading Program with The Humane Society of Missouri, kids ages 6-15 are trained to read to nervous, anxious dogs who are waiting for a forever home. In the process, they get to practice and improve their reading aloud skills and connect with and calm these furry friends.
The Shelter Buddies Reading Program at The Humane Society of Missouri is an ingenious way to help everyone involved. Pets are famously nonjudgmental and are used in many types of therapy programs, including several at libraries where hesitant kids read while a trained dog looks on lovingly or curls up in their lap. This program, however, greatly benefits the dogs as well. Humane shelters can be loud and overwhelming for many dogs. Having a kind child give them attention and read to them in a soothing voice can help them relax in their surroundings.
Getting the dogs to calm down and be approachable is also key to making them more attractive for adoption: the socialization and trust-building that happens while the kids are reading helps the dogs get ready to meet their forever families. As shy pups begin to show interest in interacting, the kids reinforce the positive behavior with treats. While some of the dogs appear to be slightly less interested than others in the books, others look downright riveted and honestly appear as if they are trying to peek at the pictures through the glass doors. One even relaxed so much he fell asleep!
Yet another great aspect of this humane education program is that the training process enriches the bonding and learning experience for both parties. After kids sign up to read, they complete a 10-hour training, during which they learn how to read the animals’ cues and respond appropriately as well as to develop empathy for these attention-craving animals. The program director reports that Shelter Buddies has had an amazing effect on some of the dogs, and word-of-mouth has made this program a hot ticket for humans as well, with lots of children signing up to do their part. We’re also willing to bet that more than one pet adoption results from these new friendships. We seriously want to take them all home ourselves!
Check out your local animal shelter to see if they have any programs like this one… or maybe one that lets parents participate too!