“Book Buddies” volunteer program brings dogs & children together at Charleston Animal Society

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Visiting an animal shelter can often be a loud experience full of barking, whimpering, and people excited to see the animals. But a different kind of noise is coming from the Charleston Animal Society, the sound of reading.

Evan Hendrickson, 6, is learning to read by sounding out words. His audience isn’t his parents or a class full of other children, instead, it’s the animals up for adoption at Charleston Animal Society.

“He’s so excited to come each week,” said his mother, Brittany Hendrickson, who homeschools Evan along with his brother and two sisters.

“I have one that is struggling a lot with many different learning challenges and so he was the one that was like nervous about bringing like would he do it,” said Brittany.

The Hendricksons visit the shelter almost every week to participate in “Book Buddies.”

“I’m going to get emotional. Book Buddies is just it’s incredible,” said Brittany.

The animals at the shelter serve as more than just pets or a potential new family member, they also make the best judgment-free audience for all readers.

“It’s helped my daughter with her confidence and she’s able to read louder and project her voice,” said Brittany.

“I think it helps the dogs get used to kids like being around them,” said 8-year-old Asya, who likes to read to the dogs, too.

“She’s very quiet and so reading to loud dogs in a loud room has been good for her speaking abilities as well,” said Brittany.

I asked Asya what book she thought they liked for her to read to them. “Probably something with animals in it,” she said.

Her brother, Oakley, who is 10 years old says his favorite book is ‘Dog Man.’

“It’s a book … that helps dogs too, cause it says it in it,” said Oakley.

The volunteer program provides much-needed quiet interaction on the adoption floor; for the dogs, it’s a break from the stressful environment to relax and enjoy a story.

“They help us read louder and better and they get used to kid’s reading to them,” said Oakley.

The program gives both the shelter animals and children something to look forward to.

“I think when they see the kids they are like oh, I like these kids, they’re going to sit with me and they’re gonna give me attention and they’re gonna love me,” said Brittany.

For the Hendrickson family, the program goes beyond reading. It’s a lesson of love.

“Anytime that we can get our children to love an animal I think it just touches their hearts so deeply and just makes them a better person, so if I can foster that in all of my kids, I’m good. I think they’re great humans,” said Brittany.

To adopt one of the shelter dogs click here.