An invitation to a group of kids to come and read stories to shelter cats, has literally changed the lives of both the children and the animals in a profound way. It is called the Book Buddies Program, a brilliant initiative that helps kids to improve their reading and gives the cats the much needed human attention they so crave.
A 10-year old 5th grader named Sean inspired the Book Buddies Program. Sean was struggling to read, so his mom, Kristi Rodriguez took him to the shelter and told him to read the cats. He enjoyed it so much, that he started visiting the cats frequently and his reading improved a lot. He has grown to really love books and the dogs at home are also becoming a regular audience.
The program grew within the community and the shelter is now visited by several kids every week, from Brownie Troops to homeschooled children, to individual kids who are struggling with specific issues, such as autism and a fear of animals. Cheyenne Boyle, for instance, used to be terrified of animals until she enrolled in the program. Reading to the cats in a safe environment taught her to relax and boosted her confidence so much that she has become a volunteer dog walker for the shelter. An autistic boy visits the shelter weekly, as his mom knows that interaction with animals can be very helpful. It has really helped his social skills and he has blossomed since.
The cats are also thoroughly enjoying the children's company and are benefiting from the program. Shelter workers say that the animals visibly relax when they hear the children's voices and the program has led to at least a couple of adoptions. The kids are also spurring the community to become more involved and are actively helping to raise donations for the shelter. Since the story has gone viral online, even more donations have been streaming in and it has inspired other shelters to also implement similar programs.
Quite heart-warming to see how the simple act of reading a book can connect humans and animals and change a whole community.