Kids and dogs make the best couples, especially, when they are asked to help each other. Based on this sweet and strong liaison between children and dogs, the Shelter Buddies Reading Program in collaboration with the Humane Society of Missouri, took the initiative to help them both with an original idea. In the shelters, there are many cases of shy and fearful dogs who are less likely to be adopted, so it's important for them to 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 reinforce 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 aged 6 to 15 years old have had the opportunity to sign up for the reading program online that it's now offered once a month. They then take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to identify a dog's body language, so they can see if the animal feels stressed or nervous. If they see such a dog in the kennel, the children are encouraged to sit outside the shy dog's pen and read to them. This practise is found to be beneficial even in the most difficult cases as the children's voices have a particuliar calming effect on them. The kids are also welcome back to the shelter anytime, as long as they are supervised.
And if you think the children don't get a reward, you couldn't be more wrong as not only it's helping them practice their reading skills but it's also extremely educational in interacting with other people and animals. "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."
Klepacki's goal is the expansion of the Shelter Buddies Reading Program to all of the Humane Society of Missouri's shelters and even to cat sanctuaries as well. And why not? Succesful for both canines and children, the mission is accomplished! Kids are happy and dogs found their forever home.
Watch the Shelter Buddies reading program in action: