Montana’s Hamilton School District #3 has an after school program where Keystone school children spend an afternoon a week reading to shelter dogs and cats awaiting their forever homes.
This program has been running for three years now and every week, children visit Bitter Root Humane Association to read to their four-legged audience.
Keystone Program Director Ria Overholt said the animals aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“We’ve seen that the sound of [children’s] voices is soothing for the dogs and cats,” said Overholt. “It is relaxing to the dogs to hear those calm and steady voices.”
“I really like to read to them,” said Keystone student Gavin Vineyard. “It feels like a nice thing to do. They always seem to calm down after you start reading.”
Parents of school kids participating in the program said that reading has taken a new meaning for their children. Overholt also said that the program has helped students strengthened their reading skills.
According to Eve Burnsides, Bitter Root Humane Association manager, the program is good for everyone.
“The kids enjoy it and the dogs really enjoy it,” said Burnsides. “[On May 25, 2013,] they had just finished eating when the kids showed up. They got to digest their meal to the sound of stories being read to them in nice, calm, reassuring voices.”
The program is helping children improve their reading skills while teaching them a valuable lesson. “It helps the kids realize that animals react and have feelings too,” said Burnsides.