Reading to animals improves literacy skills and helps socialize animals who have suffered abuse.

Dyan Underhill's Story

Reading to animals helps to improve the literacy skills of readers while helping to socialise animals who have suffered abuse.

I created the "Read to the Animals" program with the Souris Valley Animal Shelter in Minot, North Dakota. I initially created the program as a summer reading program - yet it has transformed into a year-round reading program. Students in grades P-20 are invited to read aloud to an animal at the shelter. They are paired with cats and dogs in open visitation rooms, kitty city, and even those in cages. Students are invited to bring books of their choice, yet books are available at the shelter as well. The Read to the Animals program has become a great opportunity for students to improve their reading accuracy, speed, comfort, confidence, and ability with a furry animal friend in the audience. 

A volunteer reads to an animal at the Souris Valley Animal Shelter

Another added benefit of the program is that the animals in the shelter are gaining socialization and companionship throughout the reading sessions. Students typically spend time visiting with the animals as well as reading. The program is a weekly event at the shelter. My Read to the Animals program has gained community support and we have been featured in the local media: Minot Daily News; and KMOT.

I was inspired by a news story featuring children reading in a much larger shelter in a big city. Minot is a small city, with lower incomes, and a very small private shelter. I am passionate about literacy and the benefits of reading and seeing the joy on both the readers' and the animals' faces makes it all worth it. I capture reading sessions with my own photography each week, hoping to take pictures that encourage folks to come and meet these animals too. Many of them have been adopted since being featured in my reading event albums. The program welcomes donations from Pearson for books for the students, along with supplies for the animals in the shelter - and toys to play with when with a reader.

Volunteers reading to animals to help improve their literacy skills

I am so proud of this program and what joy it has brought to the community. I also enjoy seeing the regular readers come in to spend time with the animals and improve their reading levels. Overall, it is a success for everyone and I am happy to continue to volunteer my time to run the program each week.

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