I love cats. (One look at my cat-toy-covered floors and cat-fur-covered furniture is enough to show that.)
I also love books. (Just take a look at my permanently deformed shelves sagging under the weight of books.)
So when I heard about the Book Buddies program at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pa., I was in love with the program.
If you’ve been on the Internet for more than 10 minutes in the past year, chances are you’ve seen this photo circulating:
Shown is seven-year-old Colby Procyzk. In March, Colby’s mother, Katie, told the Huffington Post whenever she asked Colby to read, he would respond with tears and tantrums. That’s why his grandmother pointed them toward the Book Buddies program.
In a nutshell: The program seeks to achieve two goals of (1) socializing timid shelter cats and (2) improving child literacy by having children read aloud to the cats. Because the shelter cats tend to be calm and quiet, they offer a non-distracting audience for children. And being around people who are engaging in a calm activity allows the cats time to acquaint themselves with humans and overcome timid tendencies.
In her interview with the Huffington Post, Katie said her son looked forward to reading to the cats — so much so that he convinced his mother to adopt cats from the shelter so he can read to them at home. He no longer resists reading because he wants to spend time with the animals.
The program has signs of success. Katie said her son’s report card rose by two letter grades after he started reading to the cats.
The shelter has noted success, too. As parents and children visit the cats to read to them, the adoption rates are rising. Beth Ireland, the shelter’s communication director, told the Huff Post that “kids and parents have fallen head over heels and adopted [the cats] along the way.”
One of my nieces is a strong reader, although she would rather do something active than settle down with a book. She also happens to adore my skittish cat, Webster. Perhaps it’s time to take a page out of the Animal Rescue League’s book. Encouraging her to read to Webster might make her want to hold still for a while, and my chicken … ahem, I mean, my cat … may become a little more social in the process.