It’s important for children to regularly read. Strong readers experience more success as adults, as well as increased confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t reflect encouraging numbers. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 43 percent of adults read at or below the basic level — that’s roughly 93 million individuals. Why is this? Reading is Fundamental says a lot of a children’s reading success tracks back to their families. Are they encouraged to read? Do adults read to children on a consistent basis?
Kids who are not strong readers — either from not reading frequently enough or a reading disability — are less likely to read aloud in class and can become easily frustrated with reading on their own. Finally, they may just give up reading for pleasure because it’s not pleasurable at all.
Kids love animals and many homes include pets as members of their families. In fact, The Humane Society of the United States cites that there’s at least one cat in 39 percent of U.S. households. Most children have a natural bond with pets and even shy children who lack self-confidence around other people relate easily with their animal friends. Many times the pet becomes the child’s best friend.
When my daughter was in pre- and elementary school, I remember her spending hours in her bedroom with our cat, Saffy. I’d hear laughter and conversations going on and it would always make me smile. It sounded like she had a playdate with a human friend! I’d sometimes walk in to find Katie reading to Saffy. Specifically, I recall her reading a book called Santa’s Snow Cat. She read that book to Saffy every single day for weeks on end … and it wasn’t even near Christmastime. She said the cat on the cover reminded her of Saffy, so she thought the cat would particularly enjoy the story.
Once, we were visiting a bookstore and Katie ran up to me, squealing and waving a find. It was called Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat. The stories were simple ones about bugs and other subjects cats would find interesting. And the illustrations were big and bright. Katie couldn’t wait to get home and read this new book to Saffy. She later confided in me that, although Saffy enjoyed the new book, Santa’s Snow Cat was still her favorite.
Katie started reading at age three and has always been a strong reader. Was it because we regularly read to her since infancy? Was it due to the hours spent reading both alone and aloud to her cat? Maybe. Whatever the case, the more exposure and practice you have with anything, the more proficient and confident you’ll become. Additionally, the time spent between the child and pet only helps develop and strengthen their bond.
Kids who are self-conscious readers may find the experience less stressful when reading to a pet. Pets don’t judge and the friendship is unconditional. The Intermountain Therapy Animals launched the The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D) program in 1999. According to its site, “R.E.A.D is the first and foremost program that utilizes therapy animals to help kids improve their reading and communication skills and also teaches them to love books and reading.” The program has substantially grown and now there are more than 3,000 therapy teams worldwide. The Black Stallion Literacy Project offers a similar program with horses, and in 2011, Best Friends Animal Society offered an “I Read to Animals” outreach program.
When a child reads to a cat, the child isn’t the only one receiving benefits. A group of students from The Keystone to Discovery After School Program has visited Bitter Root Humane Association in Hamilton, Montana, once a week for the last three years. What do they do? They read to the dogs and cats who are waiting for their forever homes. According to an article in The Missoulan, the shelter staff noted that the animals really respond to the calming voices reading to them. This can make such a difference to cats and dogs who sometimes feel anxious and alone in shelters. It’s also an educational experience for the children to spend time at an animal shelter. They really feel like they can make a difference. I believe this makes for a pretty good chance that they’ll grow into adults who want to make a difference in the life of animals. Win-win!
Does your child read to your cat? Tell us about it in the comments!
About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.
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