Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

Unique program encourages literacy by reading to cats

June 14, 2017

JANESVILLE, Wis - The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin houses some of the smartest cats.

That’s because Washington Elementary fifth-graders read them books about everything from World War I to Lamborghinis.

The “Washington Whisker Whisperers” practice their reading skills and give the cats some company every Wednesday after school. A few of the recent fifth-grade graduates made a special visit to the humane society Wednesday morning.

“I like to come here because I like to see different types of cats,” Sophia Meyer said.

Even though she has two cats at home, Sophia can’t get enough of the friendly felines.

“It helps them because they don’t really get people to come in and pet them, so this gives them nice time that they can get petted,” she said.

Sophia was reading a book about cranberries to two cats at the humane society.

“Being here, it helps me become a better reader because I’m practicing reading but also being with the cats at the same time,” she said.

Down the hall, Noah Chitek was reading a book about World War I to his cuddly kitty.

“I really like reading to the elderly cats, like the older cats and disabled cats, because usually that’s the only times they’ll see people because people always go for the kittens,” he said.

Fifth-grade teacher Kim Hayward is in charge of the program. She brings about seven students every Wednesday during the school year.

“If you make a mistake, if you mispronounce a word, if you stumble, the cats don’t care,” she said. “They’re just happy to have you and happy that you’re there, and they just don’t care how many mistakes you make.”

Hayward said she also wants to introduce the students to community service. Some of the students, like Alyson Sullivan, want to keep helping out at the humane society.

“It’s kind of just like getting us ready so when we’re older, we can come do more community service and help out with the community,” she said.

The Washington Whisker Whisperers program has been running for three years. It usually starts in October and runs through May. The group is always raising money to help pay for the bus needed to drive them from school to the shelter and back. People interested in donating can drop off money at Washington Elementary or the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.

Hayward said she’s also trying to expand the program so members of the community would be able to come in and read to the cats.

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