Kids reading to animals is a win-win

Kids demonstrate how reading to animals is fun and helps them improve their reading skills as part of the Humane Education for Educators workshop.
By David Dickson

When you’re learning to read, it’s not always easy to do so in front of those who have been reading for years. Consequently, children sometimes feel uncomfortable reading out loud around adults. Well, at least around adult humans. … Animals, on the other hand, now they’re a different story.

Kids reading to animals

A terrific way to help kids gain confidence with reading skills is to let them read stories to animals. You’ll never find a more captive audience for the adventures of Peter Rabbit than an actual rabbit. "He stole the vegetables? No way! What a cool concept!"

"I Read to Animals" demonstration

Not long ago, several of the animals at Best Friends were treated to just such a reading day from children. The Humane Education division at Best Friends was hosting a three-day workshop called, "Humane Education for Educators." The workshop was designed for educators and dealt with all sorts of topics on how to teach humane animal care. One area of focus in particular was how to teach children. By way of a hands-on lesson, several kids were invited for a few hours to demonstrate the popular program — I Read to Animals — in action.

Kids reading

Six different animals from around the Sanctuary were brought in for the literary heyday. Ziffle the pig, Charlie the parrot, Spencer the cat, Frasier the dog, Sira the pony, and Bogie the rabbit all waited with bated breath as the attending children rotated through and read stories to each of them. The kids had a blast! So did the animals. One of the children, a 9-year-old named Jack, even thought to match up the story subjects with the animals. Thus he’d read a cat book to Spencer, a dog book to Frasier, and so forth. The best part of the program is that kids and animals alike enjoy the time together.

Improving reading skills while having fun

The main goal was to show those in the workshop just how easy it is to create similar opportunities anywhere. While not everybody has access to pigs or parrots, kids can always find a friendly animal of one sort or another. And together, they can curl up with a good book for a little while. The kids will improve their reading skills, the animals will enjoy the attention, and it’s always a great chance to make a new friend.

So to anybody else out there thinking of trying this on a smaller scale, what are you waiting for? Grab your library card, a youngster, and a favorite critter. There’s truly nothing like a great book, especially sharing it with someone you love.

Photos by Sarah Ause

Adopt a pet from Best Friends.