Sit. Stay. Read.

Kids read to shelter dogs at the Humane Society of Missouri

Kimberly Rodriguez

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The Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis created a Shelter Buddies Reading Program. The program engages children to read in front of shelter dogs to help them reduce anxiety in hopes of making them more adoptable.

The program was launched last year as a way for children to learn about the shelter while enriching the lives of the animals. It is open to children around the ages of 6-15 years old. There is only a one-time participation fee of $5. Participants sit outside of the dog’s kennel and read aloud to them.

Each month, the center holds a training session about what the dogs face in shelter situations and why it is important to interact with the animals.

Once the children are trained, they can make arrangements with their parents to visit the center and read to dogs during a two-hour period. They can either bring their own book or choose from a selection there.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “When Ava sat down, the dog faced away from her. When she began to read, Charlie sat up and moved closer.”

The dogs, as well as the children benefit from this reading program. When children read to the dogs, it helps them develop their own reading skills.

“They don’t care if (the children) mess up a word or pronounce it wrong,” said Julie Hundman, a retired teacher and volunteer in the society’s education department.

Reading has helped shy dogs learn to relax around people, and has taught high energy dogs that calm behavior is desirable. That calming effect is exactly what the Humane Society wants.

Now the real question is, why doesn’t Arizona have a Shelter Buddies Reading Program?