What an amazing program this is. It’s called The Shelter Buddies Reading Program at the Humane Society of Missouri and it’s something where both humans and animals are greatly benefiting from.
Here’s what this is all about: The kids read to shelter dogs. This not only helps the children practice their own reading to a non-judging audience, but it also prepares the dogs to be better accustomed to their forever homes. The children become more empathetic as well going through this experience.
The children will sit in front of a dog’s kennel, usually one who is shy, and proceed to read to the dog from a book.
Here’s what program director Jo Klepacki had to say about the program:
“We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them. Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reinforce that behavior by tossing them a treat. What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through. They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.”
This isn’t just for the shy dogs though. The high-energy dogs also benefit from this unique program, as it instills in them a notion that calmer behavior is more desirable.
A 10-hour training program is required for a child to participate. The children are supervised and taught how to work with the animals. Once they complete that, they can then come to the shelter with their parents and read to the dogs anytime they want.
Director Jo Klepacki talks about the empathy aspect of the program:
“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 affect they can have. It encourages them to look at things from an animals perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”