Regina Humane Society launches Kiddy Readers Program

Kiddy Readers is a program recently launched by the Regina Humane Society to encourage youngsters to read by taking advantage of the society's resources: cats.

Youngsters can improve their literacy skills by reading to cats

Seven-year-old Eva reads to Fluff the cat (Glenn Reid/CBC)

The Regina Humane Society is all about finding homes for stray cats and dogs.

But if they can find a little more quality time for the animals, while making it fun for kids to read at the same time, why not?

Kiddy Readers is a program recently launched by the society.

The society's Bill Thorn says the goal is to encourage kids to read more by taking advantage of the society's resources: cats.

"There have been many studies that [show] when kids are reading with animals in the room, they're more relaxed," Thorn said. "It helps relax the animals as well." 

While Thorn believes this program is unique to Saskatchewan, it's fairly common in the United States.

Bill Thorn works for the Regina Humane Society. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts found human-animal interaction can make the learning process more comfortable and enjoyable for children, as it provide an environment without the pressure of being judged.

"The cats are not judgemental," he said. "They just sit and listen, which allows the kids to build their confidence at their own speed. So it's fun. It's not something that's intimidating."

Eva, 7, is the first volunteer reader in the program.

While she is learning to read, the cats are becoming more sociable. 

Fluff the cat. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

Because they live in cages, the animals are used to being poked and prodded by potential adopters.

Thorn said the reading program gives the cats a calmer way to spend time with people.

"They're going to wander around a little bit and sometimes they may be attracted just to the sound of the voice and cuddle up on a lap," he said.

The program is open to youngsters aged seven to twelve.