Reading With Rover

Local kids are encouraged to practice their reading skills while devoting one-on-one attention to some very needy four-legged friends.

According to the National Education Association, children who read for fun are more likely to become better readers and score higher in both reading and math as they get older. Unfortunately, statistics show that the number of children who actively read on their own has been declining, thanks in part to the popularity of handheld devices and gaming systems. It is becoming ever more crucial to teach young children that reading is, in fact, fun.

The staff and volunteers at the Humane Society of Marion County know that encouraging children to read aloud is an integral part of their education. But, they also know the positive effect a child’s voice can have on some of their homeless residents, which is exactly why the Doggone Good Reading Program was implemented.

Now beginning its second year, the program pairs one child and one dog for some quality one-on-one time.

“It makes such a big difference for our dogs. Even the ones who are bouncing off the wall most of the time will lie still and listen. It’s very soothing for them,” says Shelter Manager Kelly Vail.

Kelly says the program began last summer and took off immediately thanks to the help of volunteers and a few donated books. And although the dogs are clearly benefitting from the attention, the children also enjoy practicing their reading skills in front of an unbiased listener.

“They can take their time and read without being judged, which really helps kids develop their skills,” she says. To encourage continuation in both reading and the program, kids can keep their selected book and receive a T-shirt with a donation that they can wear each time they come.

The Humane Society houses approximately 120 dogs and 150 cats, many of which are saved from euthanasia from other shelters. And every effort is made to socialize the animals. The hour spent with their child reader is an important part of that process.

“It’s nice to watch. It’s very soothing for the dogs and children as well,” says Kelly.

Learn more › The program is run year-round with special reading events scattered throughout the year. Reading days are the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at 11am and last about an hour. Registration is required. For more information or to volunteer, contact the Humane Society at thehsmc.org or (352) 873-7387.

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