About 30 Providencia Elementary students read to dogs, cats and rabbits at the Burbank Animal Shelter after school on Tuesday, April 25.
The third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were brought by their parents to read to the animals in a program organized by third-grade teacher Kelly Ohrt and Animal Control Officer Stacie Levin-Wood.
“I love children, animals and teaching!” explained Ohrt. “I’m always trying to think of incentives to get my students reading more often. So this seemed like something they would love, plus the animals could benefit too.”
Ohrt came across this idea of students reading to shelter animals in the summer of 2016, reading reports of similar stories online. She contacted the Burbank Animal Shelter at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year and worked with the Burbank City Attorney, the Shelter and the Burbank Unified School District to get the program sorted out.
“The students and parents were very excited to have this opportunity,” said Ohrt.
“I put chairs in all of the rooms where we house animals,” said Levin-Wood. “I figured there might be some children who would be more comfortable reading to a bunny that would not bark and if they preferred cats, they could read to them instead.”
“The dogs were at peace and seemed very comfortable with the children,” added Levin-Wood. “Normally there is a lot of barking going on when kids are in the kennels, but yesterday they were zen and composed and seemed to enjoy the attention and mirrored the children’s calmness.”
“I am excited to start this program on a regular basis and I have no doubt that it will benefit both the children and our animals and that’s what it should be about really.”
“As I walked around taking pics and watching the students read, I saw the empathy and caring in their faces,” Ohrt also said. “It really warmed my heart to see it.”
“The animals seemed to really enjoy it too and many were so relaxed by it that they cuddled up next to the children and fell asleep.”
“So great to witness, especially when it helped out so many of the animals at a time when they need it the most.”
Ohrt and Levin-Wood plan to continue the reading program at the Burbank Animal Shelter on a monthly basis when school resumes for the 2017-18 school year.
More information on the Burbank Animal Shelter can be found on their website.