There is nothing sweeter than children interacting with a dog, cat or other loving pet. It seems that they have a secret language that connects them to one another that adults cannot understand. With the annual Read Across America Day, the Humane Society of Missouri developed a program that connects children with their local shelter animals, benefiting all. As a result, the Shelter Buddies Reading Program got its start with huge success.

Benefits of the Shelter Buddies Reading Program

During the reading program, students kneel down to a dog or cat enclosure to read one of their favorite Dr.

Seuss books. A child goes to a training session along with their parents before going to a shelter and must sign up to read to the animals. This session teaches the student how to compose themselves when approaching an animal cage. The director of education at the Humane Society of Missouri, JoEllyn Klepacki states that this program provides the animals with positive reinforcement, feeling more apt to come to the front of their kennel when a visitor approaches. Animals that come to the front of an enclosure during prospective adoptions have better chances of getting adopted quicker. The program also encourages the children to love reading while connecting with the animals.

How the program got its start

In 2015, several dogs were rescued from abusive situations, displaying signs of tension and stress whenever visitors approached. The Shelter Buddies Reading Program was then developed as a way to calm the dogs while providing companionship. The Humane Society saw this as an opportunity for students year-round by volunteering to help and comfort the shelter dogs and even some of the cats.

Currently, two locations engage in the program, but it is expected to expand to other Humane Society of Missouri shelter locations. Ms. Klepacki states that it seems the dog’s ears perk up when the kids read to them and appears to affect the personalities of the cats as well. It’s a great program for all involved.