By: Rhonda Howell, Events & Fundraising Manager
It’s that time of year again! Back to school- when teachers worry about summer slide and parents wonder how they can get their children excited about reading again! We know that reading is a vital skill that our children need to be successful in almost every facet of life. But did you ever link reading with dogs?
The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare would like to help get your children excited about reading. Our Read & Relax program has numerous benefits for the kids and our shelter animals! Research shows that children who read for just 20 minutes per day are exposed to 1.8 million words each school year, increasing not only their vocabulary but also creating new circuits and connections within their brains. As readers improve in comprehension levels, their social learning also increases. Children learn appropriate social and emotional responses by identifying with the characters in the books they read. According to the Children’s Reading Foundation of Mid-Columbia, reading fosters learning and creates “connections in the brain that promote language, cognitive, and social and emotional development.” Reading to animals provides children with a non-judgmental audience, which increases their confidence while also improving reading fluency and increasing enjoyment of reading. These are benefits families and educators can get behind!
Most people are surprised to learn that reading to shelter animals also benefits the animals! Shelter animals spend their days in a noisy environment, with strange smells, and little social interaction. Having a child sit with them, reading to them in a calm and soothing voice, alleviates some stress they experience in a shelter environment. These interactions also help the dogs with socialization. The ASPCA notes that “storytellers help socialize dogs who may be extremely scared, traumatized, or physically recovering, with the idea that a soothing voice and presence can help calm agitated or fearful dogs. This helps them as they get ready to move on to … find loving homes”.
Participating in our Read & Relax program is a breeze, ensuring a fun experience for everyone involved. For safety reasons, we do require that children under the age of 16 are accompanied by a legal guardian during their visit to the shelter, and prior to visiting with the dogs, the guardian will be required to sign a waiver. We offer an array of books catering to various reading levels, guaranteeing a perfect match for every reader, or you can bring a book of your choice. When you arrive, our staff members will assist you in selecting a furry friend from our adoptable dogs and accompany you to their room. The guardian is required to stay in the dog’s room with their child at all times.
The SPCA Albrecht Center offers many volunteer opportunities and we would love to help you get involved. No amount of time is too small. If you have questions, please call (803)648-6863 or email [email protected]. Together we can work toward helping our adoptable pets find their forever homes and rewrite their stories with a happy ending!
Rhonda Howell is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Events & Fundraising Manager. A former educator, her passion is linking education and animal rescue. When not working, you can find Rhonda at home with her husband and two daughters, as well as a menagerie of rescued pets: Great Danes-Archie, Garth & Dempsey; Chihuahua mix, Cricket; and two hedgehogs-Maynard and Eddie.