By David Rogers. November 13, 2016. BOONE, NC — There is no indication that the cats and kittens at Watauga Humane Society’s Adoption Center preferred Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat In The Hat” over, say, Blowing Rock author Jonathan Graves’ (John Aldridge) tome, Isabella Propeller and the Magic Beanie, but there is one sure thing: more than four dozen children got to work on their reading skills over six weeks of socializing with the Adoption Center’s feline creatures.
COVER IMAGE courtesy of www.army.mil
Watauga Humane Society Executive Director Laurie Vierheller explained to Blowing Rock News in an interview that 53 children aged 7-10 made a total of 160 visits to the Adoption Center for its “Reading for Paws” program’s first summer of operation. Each child had an opportunity to spend up to 30 minutes with one or more of the cats or kittens and read from a book that the child had selected.
In most instances, Vierheller recalled for Blowing Rock News, once the animals had gotten accustomed to the sound of a child’s voice, the climbed onto his or her lap and purred quite contently.
Each child who completed five visits to the Adoption Center received a certificate of recognition and a Reading for Paws t-shirt.
Watauga Humane Society President Charles Duke noted, “Reading for Paws has been one of our most successful educational outreach programs. It complements our in-classroom visits with animals that we make available throughout the school year to all of the elementary schools in Watauga County. We definitely intend to offer the program again next summer.”
Intended for children in grades 2-8 to promote the development of their reading skills and interest, socializing with the 130 cats and kittens housed by the Adoption Center helps the animals, too. The program is based on research carried out at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Those studies found:
- pets can be a form of human support
- human/animal interactions make the learning process more comfortable and enjoyable for children
- children with special needs demonstrate increased use of language and have improved social interactions when with animals
- animals offer a non-evaluative presence that can provide support and comfort to individuals without judging them.
For more information about the Reading for Paws program, contact the Humane Society by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Adoption Center at 828-264-7865.