Research has shown that interaction between humans and animals can make learning a positive experience for children. That's the basis behind the Book Buddies program that started late last summer in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, near Reading, PA.
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs Program, or “READ”, provides trained therapy dogs on a volunteer basis to visit schools and libraries. Over the past few years, children have improved their reading and literacy skills by reading aloud to the dogs.
Now it seems there’s a new program that utilizes cats – and not just any cats, but homeless shelter cats waiting to be adopted. The Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania, has started a Book Buddies program. Children can go to the shelter every week and read to the animals. The cats may or may not be paying attention, and the book’s subject matter is not important. But educators say the kids are more relaxed reading to the resident felines than if they were reading to a human. Just practicing reading out loud has helped the students who participate. It also helps the cats, who seem calmer and become more socialized, making them better prospects for adoption.
The combination of cats and books is not a new one. Several years ago Vicki Myron, a librarian from Spencer, Iowa, published a book about Dewey, a stray kitten that became the resident cat of the Spencer Public Library. He was such a fixture and became so famous that folks passing through Iowa would make a detour just to visit Spencer and say hi to Dewey. He passed away about seven years ago at the ripe old age of 19, but people from all over the country and even around the world still visit the Spencer Public Library. Such is the legacy of one cat who made folks feel better just by his presence.
And that’s what the cats at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County are doing, giving the children a nonjudgmental audience so they can become better readers. The kids read awhile, pet a soft furry friend, listen to it purr, maybe even play a little. The cats become accustomed to the sound of children’s voices and to being loved and petted. Everybody benefits, and whoever adopts those cats is going to get a companion that has learned to love company.
To find out more, visit the Animal Rescue League of Berks County on Facebook or just type “Book Buddies” into your search engine, and you can read all about it, when you’re speaking of pets.