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Kids Practice Their Skills By Reading Books To Shelter Dogs

The Shelter Buddies Reading Program in Missouri has been a huge success, for the kids and the dogs.

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A boy reads out loud to a shelter dog at the Humane Society of Missouri. Via Humane Society of Missouri/Facebook

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.

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    night magic March 23, 2016 1:15 am Reply
  • SO precious! And, what a beautiful humane society! Wish they all were that nice for those precious babies.

    Nancy Nurse March 23, 2016 3:58 am Reply
  • je trouve cela magnifique ça permet aux enfants d apprendre a connaitre les chiens les aimer les respecter et avoir une complicité savoir qu un animal mérite qu on s occupe de lui en le promenant le nourrir et en lui apportant de l amour de la fidélité bravo pour cet excellent travail

    mauricette bigard March 23, 2016 4:11 am Reply

    Jharris March 23, 2016 5:43 am Reply
  • Great for shelter animals ,great for children .We implemented this program into the Melbourne Australia RSPCA shelter,the success was amazing.

    etty ben-david March 23, 2016 5:59 am Reply
    • This is so encouraging to hear it coming over to Australia too. I normally read of these sorts of programs only running overseas. 🙂

      Kerrie Gorman March 23, 2016 9:56 am Reply
  • I used to visit Glendale Elementary School in Vestal, NY with my therapy dog, Comet. The kids read to him, which benefited both them and him. We also visited Headstart in Johnson City, NY and the Jewish Community Center in Binghamton, where I read to the classes and taught the children about the importance of treating animals with kindness and respect. The kids loved Comet, and he loved them. Kudos to the Humane Society in Missouri!

    Debbie Zarr March 23, 2016 6:35 am Reply
  • It would be more affectionate if the dogs could cuddle up to and have physical contact with the kids; in fact, they might find it frustrating to see someone so close but separated from them by the glass/plastic (?)

    Margaret March 23, 2016 6:40 am Reply
    • Margaret, I agree with you and Bobbi!

      ScarletDove March 23, 2016 9:13 am Reply
    • I agree. The dogs are longing for attention. The children should look up and speak to the dog they are reading to. Maybe explain that they are reading a story. Dogs understand more than we give them credit for.

      Dolly Youssef March 23, 2016 9:49 am Reply
    • Seems kind of cruel that the dogs can’t be touched by the children. That would be a key component in socializing these dogs.

      EK Wilkins March 23, 2016 9:56 am Reply
  • Sadly, this just makes me more sad….It seems like it would be more beneficial if the dogs could be touched and played with rather than read to through a wall of glass.

    Bobbi March 23, 2016 7:43 am Reply
    • Bobbi, I am in complete agreement…..these dogs need affection, how is it possible from the other side of the glass!

      ScarletDove March 23, 2016 9:12 am Reply
  • This could lead to a child wanting to be a teacher.

    ann elliott March 23, 2016 8:35 am Reply
  • I agree with those who commented that the dogs need to be petted, stroked, and/or played with. There is a barrier between the dogs and children; can the dogs even hear the children reading? There seems to be no interaction. What a frustrating situation for these dogs. How could it help them?

    Barbara Rubin March 23, 2016 10:16 am Reply
  • They probably don’t allow physical contact because of a liability standpoint. What if the dog bites or scratches on of the kids…..OMG, the lawsuit/s! Could you imagine?????????? It’s impossible to tell if a dog is aggressive, especially if it just arrived at the shelter. So I can understand why they don’t do allow the contact.

    Chalene March 23, 2016 10:35 am Reply
  • I also feel it necessary for the children as well as the dogs they’re reading to; to have physical interaction. The healing happens through touch, these dogs need this so desperately. As we’ve all experienced; shelters are such a sad place! Please help come up with some resolution, to make this even more satisfying for these beautiful, lonely, loving beings! Godspeed ❤️

    Shai March 23, 2016 2:31 pm Reply
  • ALL animals need TLC – as much as they can get <3 And so do kids. Learning to love reading is one of the best gifts you can give a child.
    This works very well with cats, too. Thank Goodness there are programs like this out there.

    KatWrangler March 23, 2016 3:45 pm Reply
  • This is the Humane Society in St. Louis, MO, where I live. I believe the reason for leaving the dogs in their rooms while the kids read from outside is to make the dogs more comfortable/less fearful in their shelter space. There aren’t enough visiting rooms to accommodate all the kids and dogs when a class visits, and for safety/hygiene reasons, the kids can’t go into the kennel rooms to read.

    I have seen other programs where kids are able to sit in a room with the dog or cat to whom they are reading, but the way the MO Humane Society is physically set up makes it unfeasible.

    Mary C March 23, 2016 4:18 pm Reply
  • The dogs need physical touch and affection. The idea sounded good on paper but the reality leaves me cold. Poor dogs…….seems like they are being teased. Glass wall…… jail. There must be a better solution.

    Betty Potter March 23, 2016 4:26 pm Reply
  • All valid points (physical interaction with the new shelter dogs). They said that this is a step toward adoption for these dogs, though, and this is one important step in that direction, accomplishing all that they mention. Kudos to the Missouri Humane Society in St. Louis!

    Darlene Uhlenkott March 23, 2016 5:03 pm Reply
  • I agree with everyone who has left a comment concerning the lack of interaction between the children and the animals. I would think this program is beneficial on the part of the kids, but, I also think it must be quite frustrating for the animals who are the ones who are looking to be adopted, given a forever home, and desperate for a family who will love and care for them.

    Gail Emerson March 23, 2016 8:33 pm Reply
  • I really think that this is rather pointless unless there can be physical contact between the children and the dogs. In all of the pictures, the dogs look like they really want contact with the children. The shelter dog whom I adopted would, I think, have skipped eating for the first couple of months I had her just to be held and loved so great was her desire for it.

    Christie Winter March 23, 2016 8:42 pm Reply

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