There’s not much better than curling up with a good book . . . unless you’re a reluctant reader who disagrees with this sentiment. But, if that reader has a love of animals, the Dumb Friends League’s Tales for Tails program may help them change their minds.
Often, emerging readers struggle to read aloud in public, but reading to animals helps ease their anxiety with a nonjudgmental audience. While practicing their reading skills and building their confidence, kids also learn empathy for animals when they see how their reading can have a calming effect on a high-energy dog or a shy cat, and they discover how to assess an animal’s body language.
The League developed the Tales for Tails program to leverage the growing research identifying the advantages of reading to animals—benefits to both children and animals. And, unlike a library where quiet is typically encouraged, readers at the Leslie A. Malone Center, the Buddy Center and the Harmony Equine Center get excited to share stories with the animals in our care.
Tales for Tails doesn’t just help kids. Animals, especially those who may find human interaction challenging, become accustomed to voices as they engage with young readers. Timid cats, dogs and horses become more comfortable with humans while increasing the likelihood of adoption—and they receive undivided attention, which makes them feel special. (OK, we don’t know that for sure, but they seem to enjoy one-on-one time!)
Our one-hour program provides kids in first through twelfth grades an educational, interactive experience reading to equines at the Harmony Equine Center, cats at the Leslie A. Malone Center and dogs at the Buddy Center. Each session includes lessons on animal safety, a tour and time to practice their reading skills.
Seven-year-old Anna loves Barbie dolls, fairies, Greek mythology and reading to her pup Kona. When asked who she prefers to read to, her mom or Kona, sadly for mom, Kona won out “because it’s fun, and she just listens and doesn’t correct me”—and, apparently, Kona becomes even cuter when the duo curls up and reads together. Anna also had fun reading to a horse at the Harmony Equine Center. After a safety lesson, Anna sat outside while her equine companion was nearby enjoying her company. Anna is looking forward to bringing a friend on her next reading adventure to Harmony, which is good because the sweet girl has a summer of reading ahead of her!
“Nothing is better than watching a student read aloud to a cat curled up in their lap,” said Humane Education Manager, Amanda Kludasch. “Watching students and pets become more relaxed in such a short amount of time shows the importance of the human-animal bond.”
Teachers can also request the Tales for Tails program at their school by visiting ddfl.org/community-education. Our humane education team will talk about important safety tips for meeting a new dog, and then kids will begin the reading portion with one of the League’s Ambassadogs. (Ambassadogs are highly trained pets used in some of our humane education programs. Kids love meeting our four-legged friends while learning about safe pet interactions and compassion for animals.)
It’s a win-win when children get to practice their reading skills and pets get more comfortable with people! Visit ddfl.org/humane-education/youth-programs/ to learn more, see available dates and register.