Innovative Program Improves Kids’ Literacy and Shelter Animals’ Adoptability

April 25, 2018
2 mins read

If there’s one thing I treasure, it’s the memory of bedtime stories from puppyhood. Back then, storytime was a treat-a bit of together time at the end of an active day. Though I could not read any of the words in the book, the sounds and smells of pages turning evoked feelings of comfort and happiness. Suddenly the scary shadows in the corner and the mysterious monsters crouching in the closet seemed to vanish.

Turns out, we’re a lot more like humans than we may realize-and a program created by the Jacksonville Humane Society illustrates how and why in some rather powerful ways.

The idea is simple: Teach kids to sit in front of kennels and read to dogs and cats. The shelter pets really benefit from it, as it gives them a chance to sit with people for long periods of time and build trust. It’s a simple gesture that goes a long way.

Pawsitive Reading is a program designed to help shelter pets become more comfortable around people, which ultimately helps them become even better candidates for adoption. Shy dogs and cats learn to relax around new people, while energetic pets learn that calm behavior is desirable. And who knows? Maybe these animals will even learn a new word or two.

The program admits school-age children, who attend a short information session, a shelter tour and a free book, courtesy of The Jim Moran Foundation. They’re taught how to read an animal’s body language in a stressful shelter setting. Some animals get very lonely being in a shelter environment and they enjoy the company. To encourage interaction, the young volunteers offer treats to animals when they approach the front of the kennel, positively reinforcing their behavior. Once the animals associate humans with happy things, they’re more likely to interact with potential adopters and find their furever home.

What’s more, youngsters are able to improve their reading skills in front of a non-judgmental audience, helping build confidence in the classroom. It’s a peaceful, quiet activity that encourages kids to develop affection and harmony with animals. They see an animal’s initial fears melt away, which shows them the positive effect they can have. It encourages kids to look at things from an animal’s perspective, understanding they have feelings, too. That helps the children to better connect with animals and people in their lives.

It’s also an opportunity to learn about pet adoption and animal welfare issues, and build an understanding of why it’s important to treat animals with compassion. This could help prevent any future animal abuse.

It’s amazing how something as simple as reading can have such an incredible impact on animals. But this program goes beyond helping animals become calmer and more confident; it helps children, too, teaching invaluable life lessons about how to treat animals, and creating a new generation of compassionate individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of animals.

In the end, both the kids and the animals win.


Learn more about JHS Education Programs at


Davi the dachshund is a charter member of the four-legged literati.

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