Kelly's Dog Blog - Happy Tales

Kids reading to shelter pets at Rancho Coastal Humane Society

April 29, 2019

I was an avid reader as a child. I read out loud a lot in my elementary school classes, and became quite good at it.

Photo courtesy of Rancho Coastal Humane Society
It brought me out of my shell; a child with so much dysfunction in her home life, reading became my salvation — an escape; something to be good at and to help boost my self-esteem. 

Now I talk on the radio and do voiceovers. I believe there is a definite correlation between my childhood and the career I hold so appreciatively now.

My experience, combined with my love for animals, is why I am thrilled with “Happy Tales,” one of the newest programs at Rancho Coastal Humane Society, where, one Friday afternoon each month, 8 children between the ages of 6 and 12 come in to read to the cats, dogs, and rabbits available for adoption. 

John Van Zante tells us, “It's fascinating to watch the animals walk or hop to the edge of their enclosures to sit as close as they can to the readers. Each reader has a different style and reading level. I love it when the younger kids read a page then turn the book around to show the pictures to the pets they're reading to.” 

Photo courtesy of Rancho Coastal Humane Society

So heartwarming. How I would have loved to experience something like this as a kid! 

RCHS Humane Educator Lizzie Hart explains that the children sit next to the kennels and cages and read to the animals. It helps the animals become more comfortable with children because there is no forced interaction. For pets who are nervous or shy, the sound of the children reading is calming.

A University of California, Davis study showed that children who read aloud to dogs for 10 to 15 minutes per week experienced a 12% increase in reading proficiency. 

Children reported feeling “self-conscious, clumsy, and uncomfortable” when reading out loud. But when they read in the presence of a dog, the same children reported feelings of “happiness and safety.” 

Happy Tales is for children ages 6 to 12 years old. Each session is limited to 8 children supervised by a parent.

Photo courtesy of Rancho Coastal Humane Society
There is a one-time orientation before participants can read to the animals. Closed-toed, rubber-soled shoes are required.

Children are welcome to bring a book to read to the animals or they can borrow a book from the library in Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Humane Education center. They’re also welcome to bring their own pillow, blanket, or towel to sit on or use a carpet square provided by RCHS.

To register a child to take part in Happy Tales or for more information about the program or any of the other opportunities available for children through the Humane Education program at Rancho Coastal Humane Society visit the shelter at 389 Requeza Street in Encinitas, call 760-753-6413, or log on to