For more than seven years, kids have been gaining confidence in their reading with the help of local dogs. RUFF (Reading Up For Fun), a Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe program, has been partnering with schools and libraries to pair young readers with certified therapy dogs, but recently expanded the program to include Elvis, RUFF’s first listening cat.
Elvis, who was adopted by Cherri Gilmore from the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe as a kitten, is now 10, a gray tabby Manx and is the first feline to become part of the shelter’s pet-assisted therapy program.
RUFF builds self-esteem in young readers by giving the child a comforting audience to read out loud. Elvis, along with Gilmore, spent the summer at Glenshire Elementary helping students with his or her reading.
“Elvis the wonder cat was the star of our summer reading program,” said Teresa Ketron, librarian at Glenshire Elementary, in a press release. “Students of all ages enjoyed reading to Elvis and Cherri. The relaxed animal-friendly atmosphere allowed children to practice the skill of reading in a fun and unique way. We can’t wait to continue the program during the coming school year.”
According to Erin Ellis, volunteer and humane education programs manager for HSTT, children that read to animals don’t feel the same pressure of judgment that they might feel in a classroom or peer setting.
“The relationship is mainly between the animal and the child,” she said. “They make great listening partners for kids.”
RUFF teams (dog/cat and handler) meet once a week one-on-one with each of their students for 20 minutes. The program is actively seeking new teams to visit schools and assist young readers.