The Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter is inviting Mason’s children to read to adoptable pets at the shelter’s new readership program, S.P.A.C.E. Tails (Sheltered Pets Assisting Children’s Education).
Starting in December the shelter has been inviting children ages 6-16 to read to dogs and cats. The program is offered in collaboration with the Mason Library, which provides one free book to each child who attends.
Volunteer and Foster Coordinator Lauren Yunker said S.P.A.C.E. Tails is a part of the shelter’s overarching enrichment program. Interactions with children mentally stimulate the animals, as they spend most of their time bored and stressed at the shelter.
“A lot of them calm down when they’re being read to. Some of them tend to be more kennel reactive, they may bark when visitors come by. But having the children read to them helps calm them down and reassure them,” Yunker said.
Yunker said the community’s response has been overwhelming since the pilot event in December. She said the 30 open slots often fill up within an hour of posting the event on Facebook. The program will continue to run once or twice a month for the foreseeable future.
Sharon Fillwock-Cremeans brought her grandson, Jonathan Fillwock, to a S.P.A.C.E. event for the first time on Feb. 26. “He loves animals, he just cherishes them,” she said. Fillwock-Cremeans said the event offered Jonathan a great combination of playing with animals and finishing his reading homework.
Eight-year-old Jonathan said he likes reading to animals more than people. “If I could do it for every single day, I would do it,” he said.
Yunker said she and her colleague attended an animal welfare conference in October and were inspired to put their idea for the program into action. She sent out requests on Facebook for volunteers, and Mason Library’s head librarian, Heather Goupil, immediately reached out to collaborate.
“S.P.A.C.E. Tails matches our early literacy goals for CADL, so it was perfect,” said Goupil. “We’re always looking for other community partners who are doing things with literacy. This was everything. It hit every single mark.”
The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Yunker said Wednesdays are Whisker Wednesday, which means cats are free to adopt, and dogs are $50 each, and come with an Ingham County license. Learn about upcoming shelter events by following its Facebook page. The next S.P.A.C.E. Tails event will be at 4 p.m. March 18.