An animal shelter in Pennsylvania came up with a creative way to benefit both children and animals.
The Animal Rescue League located in Berks County has a Book Buddies program where school-aged children read to cats. Kristi Rodriguez, volunteer coordinator at Animal Rescue League, originally came up with the idea. She credits her son with providing the inspiration that she needed to implement the program.
“I have a 10-year-old son at home who has struggled with reading for quite some time now,” Rodriquez told The Huffington Post. “It affects his self-esteem as well because he’s not comfortable reading in front of his classmates. Working at the shelter, you come to realize that the animals who interact with the children in the program don’t care what their reading level and what their skills are, they’re just happy to have that companionship with the children.”
Soon after Book Buddies launched, Animal Rescue League posted photos of the program online. One of the photos went viral after an online user shared the photo on Reddit. The photo shows a school-aged boy reading a book with a cat under his arm. The cat appears to be smiling and reading right along with him.
The photo became so popular that droves of people began visiting the Animal Rescue League website, causing it to crash. But workers and volunteers were more than okay with that. The shelter posted the following status to social media:
“We are thrilled that a post from a friend of our Book Buddies program is going crazy on Reddit! We know lots of people are trying to access our website and the high traffic is slowing things down, but we hope you’ll be patient!”
Rodriguez says that the program has increased her son’s comprehension, fluidity, and even his self-esteem. She also reports that her son enjoys reading now. He is also more compassionate than ever before.