Book Buddies Program:

The Book Buddies Program was implemented by Animal Rescue League (ARL) Program Coordinator, Kristi Rodriguez. Her son, Sean, who’s a ten-year-old fifth grader, served as an inspiration for the program. He struggled with reading at school, so she brought him in to read to the cats. He loved it so much, he asked to come back. She knew if her son liked reading to the cats, then other children would as well. The program officially began in August, 2013. Since then, Sean has shown remarkable improvement in his reading and now often reads to their dogs at home.

Sean’s story is similar to those of many other children who have participated in Book Buddies. The program has grown within the community and is taken advantage of by home-schooled children, Brownie Troops, parents who want to expose their children to animals, parents of autistic children and many more.


Children in grades 1-8 who are able to read at any level are invited to the shelter to read to the cats in the adoption room. The program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals by providing socialization and human interaction. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.


According to studies performed by researchers at Tufts University…

  • “Pets can be considered a source of support.”

  • “Human-animal interaction can make the learning process more comfortable and enjoyable for children.”

  • “Autistic children who were put in contact with an animal, demonstrated increased use of language and had improved social interactions while with the animal.” They showed “sustained focus and maintained a higher state of awareness, as well as improved attitudes toward school.”

  • Animals can be a “non-evaluative presence that can provide support and comfort to participants without judging them.”


Children can complete “book tickets” while participating in the program. Each ticket requires the child to complete five books (length does not matter). After each ticket is completed, they can begin a new one. The completed ticket can then be saved and turned in for a prize (there will be different prize levels), or they can enter a monthly drawing which will be displayed at the front desk. The choice is theirs.

I saw the Berks County Animal Rescue League's Book Buddies program on national news and thought, what a wonderful idea! Being a Berks County native myself and an animal lover, I felt an immediate connection. Reading is a skill that all children (and adults) should possess. We must always encourage our children to read.


When Sly and Gray heard about the Book Buddies Program, they were relentless. They immediately bugged me (pun intended) to go visit the Book Buddies. A copy of  Sly Fly and the Gray Mare soon found its way into the Book Buddies library.


To visit the Animal Rescue League of Berks County website, click on their logo at the top of this page.


Regards, Terri