BALTIMORE, Md. — Reading is fun, especially when you get the chance to read to an adorable pet.
Every Tuesday, the Maryland SPCA hosts the Pet Pals Reading Program. The initiative allows children from the community to grab a book and read to the many pets awaiting adoption at the center.
"It makes them feel comfortable and happy and loved," said first grader Eli Herman.
The program is an hour session to help calm and socialize the animals.
"When the students start reading, there's just this calm that comes over our animals so it actually helps our animals become more adoptable because they're used to relating to humans in a very calm manner," said Shawn Bramble, Senior Education Coordinator at Maryland SPCA.
"The dogs are crazy and then when I read to them a lot, they start to fall asleep, and I've had two cats fall asleep already," said third grader Dillon Weinman.
Weinman is known for making his way to the Maryland SPCA every Tuesday for the last two years. Today he chose to read a Harry Potter book to the cats.
"I have to do a certain amount of reading every week, and two years ago my brother came here with me, and we read and my mom liked it a lot and so every Tuesday we would come," said Dillon.
The program isn't just for the animals but for the students too.
"Students can practice their oral fluency when they come in here in a completely non-judgmental zone. A dog is never going to judge you. They are just happy for the interaction," said Bramble. "It's a win win for everybody."
Dillon's dad said it definitely works.
"I've seen a tremendous improvement in his reading skills, his comprehension. He loves reading," said Dennis Weinman, "I mean its probably his favorite thing to do."
It's one of the reasons Eli's mom Marcia decided to try it out.
"He sometimes feels a little shy reading and he doesn't project his voice very well but because the other dogs were barking, he had to raise his voice and he seemed more confident," said Marcia.
This after his very first session! Eli shared some laughs and love with the dogs as they calmly listened to his storytelling of his favorite book Dog Man. He says he already has plans to come back every week and his mom is on board.
"It makes me feel really good to be near dogs that need families because I'm making them feel happy and that's why I like doing it," said Eli. "I wish I could adopt all of them."
And that's a benefit from the program too: exposure. Since the Weinman's have been involved, they have adopted two cats they met and fell in love with.
The SPCA encourages people to sign up online to read. It's always on Tuesdays. During the school year, from 5 to 6 p.m. Once summer hits, it opens up hours during the day too.
"We always have space, and we're always looking for more people to help our dogs relax and practice their oral reading," said Bramble.
The program can take up to ten kids at a time. To register, click here.