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A Purr-fect Place To Read

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Twelve-year-old Delta resident Julia is an aspiring veterinarian who already has a dog and two cats at home. Last summer she decided she wanted to do more to help animals and so she called to volunteer for the Delta Community Animal Shelter.

Julia was initially disappointed to learn she isn’t old enough, however when she heard about a special program which allows children from the Lower Mainland to read to the animals, she jumped at the opportunity.

“My daughter is generally very shy and needs a little bit of practice reading and she just loves animals so we thought this would be a perfect combo for her,” says her mom, Marisa.

Last summer Julia came as often as she could to sit with the animals and read them stories. She spent most of her time with the cats, who are quite happy to sit in a lap and be stroked while listening to a good story.

Tales for Tails was introduced to the shelter last summer and saw 40 children like Julia participate between the reading levels of grades one to seven. The animals in the program are those who are especially affectionate with people and like plenty of attention.

“They [shelter staff] know the animals really well and they have a sticker showing which animals are Tales for Tails animals, which are the animals you can read to,” explains Marisa.
Although the program ended in the fall it was such a smashing success that they decided to make it open year-round to anyone under 16 years of age who wants to practice reading.

“We really wanted to give children who were not old enough to volunteer yet an opportunity to get involved with shelter animals and this program seemed like a win-win” says Sarah Jones, manager for the animal shelter.

Sarah is a big believer in numerous studies which show that reading to animals help children become comfortable reading out loud. She says it’s a perfect place to practice because animals are non-judgmental. Indeed, they’re just happy to have somebody sit and cuddle them as they wait to be adopted into their “forever home.”

“It is an amazing experience to see the animals’ stress reduce right before your eyes,” says Sarah. “Living in a shelter is tough on them and although we do our best to give them a comfortable and loving environment, that one-on-one time with the kids makes so much more of an impact.”

Of course, the idea of the program is to get families comfortable with the animals in the hopes they might find a place for them in their homes, as well as their hearts. Marisa says Julia fell in love with a marmalade-coloured tabby cat named Henry. They wanted to adopt, but learned that he wouldn’t be a good fit for a home that already has a dog.

Julia understood and mom says she was just happy for the opportunity to spend time reading to him. But there’s a happy ending to this story. Henry has since been adopted by another family.

Tales for Tails is available through pre-booking on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and school days (except Monday) from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. Reading times are limited to 20 minutes and only certain animals have been designated by the animal shelter as having a temperament suitable for reading.

You can bring your own book although the shelter has a library for children to select from. Call 604-940-7111 to book your time slot.

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