The Shelter Buddies Reading Program is collaborating with the Humane Society of Missouri to make a huge difference in the lives of both children and animals. Since shy and fearful dogs are less likely to be adopted, it's important that they have a chance to interact with others. That's why the program's director, Jo Klepacki, came up with the idea to have children read to these dogs. “Ideally the shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reenforce that behavior by tossing them a treat,” Klepacki told The Dodo. “Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals. It is incredible, the response we've seen in these dogs.”
Since last Christmas, kids who are 6-15 years old have had the opportunity to sign up for the reading program online and it's now offered once a month. They then take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to read a dog's body language, so they can see if the animal is stressed or nervous. If they see such a dog in the kennel, the children are encouraged to sit outside the shy canine's pen and read to them. Even dogs with a ton of energy have found these events to be beneficial, since the children's voices tend to relax them. The kids' parents are even welcome bring them back to the shelter anytime, as long as they are supervised.
As for the youngsters themselves, they're also benefiting from this program, but not only because it's helping them practice their reading skills. “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 effect they can have,” Klepacki explained. “It encourages them to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
In the future, Klepacki hopes to expand the Shelter Buddies Reading Program to all of the Humane Society of Missouri's shelters and even to cat sanctuaries as well. The best part, by far, is that this strategy has already helped well-read pups find forever homes.
Watch the Shelter Buddies reading program in action: