What happens when you combine a group of children who like to read with a group of dogs who need some affection? You get the off-the-charts adorable Shelter Buddies Reading Program, a collaboration between the Missouri Humane Society and its young volunteers, some of whom are just learning how to sound out sentences.
As part of this program, children between the ages of six and 14 are bringing stacks of their favorite books to the St. Louis shelter and reading them to the dogs who are waiting to be adopted.
After signing up for the program, the young participants (the human ones) complete a 10-hour training program that teaches them how to approach, interact with and respond to the dogs. After that, they are allowed to go to the shelter at any time to read to the dogs, an arrangement which benefits all of the participants.
“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 affect they can have,” program director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. “It encourages them to look at things from an animal’s perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
As the children sit in front of the dogs’ kennels and read, they reward them with treats as they move closer. According to Klepacki, it helps the dogs learn to trust people and to approach them — two behaviors that can improve their chances of being adopted.
Klepacki says that she hopes to eventually expand the program to other shelters throughout the state. Regardless of what the kids are reading, this is one story that seems like it will have a very happy ending.