Read and Relax: Helping Both Children and Animals
The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Westbrook, Maine has developed a unique new volunteering opportunity for little literature lovers. The program is called Read and Relax. In the program, children read to shelter dogs for 15 to 30 minutes a day. The program helps both shelter dogs and children alike.
Dogs have been known to suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) just like humans do. They can develop PTSD for a multitude of reasons, including constant change in environment or bad encounters with humans. Many shelters dogs are there because their owners have decided they can no longer take care of them. This can cause dogs to feel anxious, confused, and abandoned. When the children come to read to them, it helps the dogs by creating a calming, human presence.
In addition to helping with PTSD, the dogs also benefit in other ways from the reading. Human interaction can help the dogs learn valuable social skills that can help them get adopted. It also helps curb the feelings of loneliness they may experience in the shelter.
Reading to shelter dogs also helps benefit the children in many ways. Firstly, it helps them learn how to read and improves their literacy. It also helps nurture a sense of compassion and closeness to animals. It teaches children to be observant and conscious of animal behavior; every volunteer fills out a form at the end of the session observing the animal’s behavior throughout. Finally, it helps children learn how to interact and respect animals; every volunteer is taught what to do and what not to do with the animals.
Have you heard of any cool volunteer programs with animals? Leave a comment and let us know! Maybe we will cover your suggestion in an upcoming article!