Kiddies 2 Kitties Socializes Cats, Encourages Kids to Read
By Melissa McKenzie

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Kiddies 2 Kitties Socializes Cats, Encourages Kids to Read

Modeled after a program at a Pennsylvania shelter, Palo Alto Humane Society’s (PAHS) Kiddies 2 Kitties program gives the cats and kittens in Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority’s (SVACA) care some attention while helping children develop greater language ability and reading comprehension skills.

After reading about the program in Pennsylvania, PAHS approached a couple organizations before meeting with SVACA’s Executive Director Dan Soszynski three years ago about developing a partnership that allowed children to visit the shelter and read aloud to its felines.

“We were working with Palo Alto Animal Services and they really weren’t set up as well as it is here,” said PAHS Education Manager Leonor Delgado. “They only have two community rooms. Then we started doing it with Pets in Need and had a few sessions there, but SVACA has been our mainstay and it seems to be growing.”

Held the first and third Wednesday of each month from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at SVACA’s animal care center, 3370 Thomas Road in Santa Clara, Kiddies 2 Kitties has traditionally been open to children in first through fifth grade. However, the program has recently expanded to middle school youths and high school teenagers interested in reading or completing community service hours.

“We’ve opened the program to kids in high school who want to do community service ... from the beginning we’ve welcomed Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other clubs, and when they come, usually we have a session here,” said Delgado. “They’re introduced to the shelter, what kind of work the shelter does and what they do in the community.”

According to Delgado, one great thing about the program is that it does not require children to attend a certain number of weeks, as they can participate as frequently or infrequently as their schedules permit.

“It’s totally open-ended for the parents and kids because they sometimes have conflicts,” said Delgado. “We like to see people return and I think some of the cats know the people and like to see them return but we’re open-ended because we know that there are other commitments.”

Children and teenagers can sign up through PAHS by calling 650-424-1901 or emailing pahs@paloaltohumane.org. Once registered, and after filling out a waiver, participants can read aloud to SVACA’s cats for as long as they’d like. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, unless they’re visiting with a chaperoned group.

“We try to promote it locally through Santa Clara, of course, but we do the four different cities–Campbell, Santa Clara, Monte Serreno and Mountain View–so we push it out to those cities but anyone is welcome to come to the program,” said SVACA Outreach Coordinator Janet Alexander. “It’s such a win-win because they’re socializing the kitties and they’re refining their reading skills,” said Alexander. “It’s just a great program. I just love it. I really want to grow it this year and promote it.”

Visit http://svaca.com/home/showdocument?id=15532 for more information.