These Kids Reading to Dogs Will Melt Your Heart

Remember how much you loved when someone used to read to you? Turns out, dogs and cats enjoy the soothing practice just as much. It apparently helps both kids and pets, when they team up with a good book. A host of libraries, shelters, and service organizations have started program that focus on reading to dogs. The benefits just keep coming, and the photos melt our hearts. See if you can get through them all without tearing up.

Nobody showed up to read to Sting and look at his face

Twice a month, a greyhound named Sting and his owner John Muellner head to the White Bear Lake library so kids can read to him. One day, no one showed up and Sting, 10, got lonely.

“It’s meant to be a fun environment,” children’s librarian Ann Wahlstrom told TODAY. “To give kids a fun, non-threatening place where they can practice their reading skills to a dog.” After Muellner posted Sting’s lonely face to Facebook, the calls started pouring in.

Next: Look how happy he looks in this next photo.

This dog’s happy place is next to kids

Sting kids dog library

People have been clamoring to read to Sting now. | John Muellner via Facebook

The responses to Sting’s lonely mug came in droves, and the librarian said she loves the response and the program. “We love promoting the joy of reading,” Wahlstrom said. Chief academic officer for Scholastic Francine Alexander told ABC the programs work because children have an easier time reading to dogs than other students. A study by the University of California-Davis also found reading to dogs improved kids’ own reading skills more than those who did not.

Next: This shelter lets kids read to dogs for an adorable reason.

Shelter reading buddies help dogs feel more at home

Girl reading to dog

It helps socialize dogs in shelters. | Julie Barnes via Instagram

At the at the Humane Society of Missouri, the Shelter Buddies Reading Program helps shelter dogs get ready to head to their furever homes. Kids reading to dogs helps them feel more comfortable around humans, while reducing their anxiety. It also helps the children improve their reading skills.

Next: For both pets and kids, reading to dogs becomes a win-win.

The dogs get attention, the kids get reading practice

Girl reading to shelter dog

They read to shy dogs to help them get adopted. | Julie Barnes via Instagram

Children ages 6-15 can sign up on the shelter’s website if they want to participate. After receiving training on how to read the dogs’ body language, the young volunteers read to shy shelter dogs. The kids also learn how to empathize with the dogs, as the dogs become more adoptable. That way, everyone wins.

Next: The program came about as a way to help this demographic.

Shy and skittish dogs both benefit from reading

Boy reading to shelter dog

The dogs seem to be loving it. | Shannon Koberlein via Instagram

“We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them,” program director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. “We launched the program last Christmas, but now we offer it once a month.” She explained that stressed out or anxious dogs most need the special attention of kids reading to dogs.

Next: The program works because it encourages the dogs to interact with humans.

Dogs actually do listen to the readers

Girls reading to shelter dog

The kids help train them to be sociable pets. | Humane Society of Missouri via Instagram

Klepacki explained that the dogs do respond to the kids, and that gets them ready to find their humans. “Ideally, that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reinforce that behavior by tossing them a treat,” said the director. In addition, she said that dogs become more likely to find an adopted home if they come to the front of their kennel, rather than cowering in fear.

Next: Excitable animals can also derive benefits from kids reading to dogs.

When kids read to hyper dogs, they chill out

Kids read to dogs

It helps calm them down. | Humane Society of Missouri via Facebook

High-energy animals can also relax when they hear the calming voices of the kids reading to dogs. “Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals,” Klepacki said. “It is incredible, the response we’ve seen in these dogs.” That response teaches the kids the effect they can have on shelter animals, too.

Next: The program also recently expanded to include cats.

Cats can get in on the literary action, too

Kid reading to cat

The animals and kids are reacting positively. | Humane Society of Missouri via Facebook

Never fear, cat parents. The readers can also choose to read to a cat, instead. “It’s encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It’s a peaceful, quiet exercise. They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive effect they can have,” said Klepacki. “That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”

Next: Shelters do not represent the only place where kids can benefit from reading to dogs.

Some service dogs also get a reading buddy

Service dog reading library

It helps calm anxious readers. | Intermountain Therapy Animals via Facebook

In some places, the idea of reading to dogs has caught on outside libraries and animal shelters. Utah’s Intermountain Therapy Animals launched the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program or READ in 1999. The program pairs kids with calm, trained service dogs who lend their furry ears to reading. It helps calm anxious readers, develop literacy, and bond with the animals. Sounds like a win-win-win, to us.

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