By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Turns out kids aren’t the only ones who love storytime.
Magellan the cat cuddled and purred this week at the Wood County Humane Society as a story about a fellow feline was read aloud. But it could have been anything – a magazine, homework, even a book about Clifford the Big Red Dog or Old Yeller.
So the humane society is starting a reading programs for volunteers.
“It helps the animals,” said shelter manager Erin Moore. “They get to spend time with people – that helps reduce their stress and anxiety.”
So far there is only one volunteer reader, but the humane society is prepared for more.
“There’s a bookshelf full of books,” Moore said.
But it can really be anything – reading from cell phones or magazines. “College kids can do their homework,” she said.
The volunteers can sit on chairs, on the floor, on the dog beds, or outside by the outdoor kennels.
It’s all about socialization for the dogs and cats, Moore said.
And that can speed up an animal’s opportunity to find a home, according to Andrea Szymkowiak, public relations chairperson for the Wood County Humane Society
“It helps to move along the adoption process,” Szymkowiak said.
Furry companions are not so different from humans when it comes to gaining some benefits from reading, she said. Research shows that shelter animals who have the opportunity to be read to decrease their anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the animal “listeners” develop socialization skills.
And the animals aren’t the only ones to benefit. Reading to animals is a non-threatening way for a child to work on reading skills, Szymkowiak said.
“It helps them to gain some confidence in reading. They have a non-judgmental audience,” Szymkowiak said.
Avid readers boost their knowledge base, expand their vocabulary, reduce stress, improve memory, enhance focus and concentration, and are provided with mental stimulation.
This volunteer program is also designed to allow all ages to participate.
“It’s all about looking for opportunities to get everyone in our community involved,” Moore said.
“It pulls in not only adults in the community, but also kids,” Szymkowiak said.
Anyone interested in participating in the reading program at the shelter should fill out the volunteer application and attend orientation. Once completed, a volunteer can schedule time to come in and read to any animal. Children under the age of 16 are required to have a parent or guardian present. Reading volunteers are welcome to select from the books provided at the shelter or can bring in their own reading material.
For more information about the reading program, call the shelter at 419-352-7339.