Polar Bear, a shelter dog at Bitter Root Humane Association, enjoys a story being read by a child participating in an after-school program in Montana. Photo: Facebook
A group of school children participating in an after school program in Hamilton, Montana, are helping shelter dogs by reading to them while they are in their kennels.
As part of The Keystone to Discovery After School Program, children travel to the Bitter Root Humane Association's shelter every week and spend time reading to the dogs. The effects have been positive for both the children and the dogs.
The Keystone program director Ria Overholt says that the dogs relax when they hear the children's calm and steady voices. She has gotten positive feedback from the children's parents as well.
"Dogs are a totally non-judgmental audience to read to," Ria told the Ravalli Republic. "We've found that it does help them build their reading skills and they have fun doing it."
During a recent visit, one boy, Gavin Vineyard, sat on an upturned bucket and read to a Shar-Pei cross named Kira. He said, "I really like to read to them. It feels like a nice thing to do. They always seem to calm down after you start reading."
The program has been running for three years now and kids spend an afternoon a week reading to the shelter's dogs and cats. The kids choose if they wish to participate, and those that do return week after week.
For their part, Bitter Root Humane Association is very happy the kids come and help the animals. They said it can be an eye-opening experience for many of the kids, but that everyone finds it rewarding.
They posted a photo on their Facebook page and thanked the children for coming in and reading. "Polar Bear, a beautiful 5 year old male registered malamute, seemed to be enjoying the stories immensely! THANK YOU so much for coming down and doing this for the shelter animals. We look forward to another year of having you guys down."
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