Kids boost skills by reading to cats at Furkids shelters

Jack Graham was just a toddler when he started reading to cats. He would visit the cat shelter with his mom and older brother and read their bio cards to them.

Now 11, Jack still reads to his furry friends, but he's opted for more complex material by reading to the cats from the "1,001 Things You Must..." book series.

"They sit down and listen," said Jack, who reads to cats for about 30 minutes per visit. "I just like cats and I wanted to give a shot at reading to them."

Jack is one of about 100 volunteer kids ranging in age from 4 to 18 who have been reading to cats this summer at the Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelter in Doraville.

Not only does the program help kids boost their reading skills, it also helps socialize the hundreds of cats at the shelter. The program has been so popular, it will continue this fall offering children the opportunity to practice their reading throughout the school year.

"It turns out that cats are avid listeners when children read to them," said Samantha Shelton, founder and executive director of Furkids.  "Our young Furkids volunteers really enjoy the experience of nurturing the cats by reading to them, and the reading experience helps to reinforce a loving bond between humans and animals."

For children who may have some challenges reading, the read to cats program has the benefit of allowing them to practice without fear of making mistakes.

"It is fun and unique to have an animal sitting and listening to you and they are not going to judge you," said Jack's mom, Jennifer Graham, who has volunteered with her family for eight years at Furkids and is leading the effort to recruit schools for the read to cats program.

The cats -- who sniff pages, walk around, and sometimes sit quietly while being read to -- learn to be more calm and loving around people.

"In some of the rooms, you have some cats that are more shy and may have been traumatized at some point," Graham said. "(Furkids) wants the kids and cats to get used to each other."

For information on how to participate and scheduling, contact Furkids at volunteer@furkids.org.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.
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