A serious child sits on the kennel floor with a book in his hands, and a floppy-eared puppy sits attentively by his side with a look on its face that says, “Tell me a story, I’m all ears.”


This will be the happy scene on Wednesday at the Aiken County Animal Shelter when FOTAS, in partnership with the ABBE Regional Library System, launches the “Dog Ears” reading program.


Like many shelters and libraries nationwide, the shelter and the county library recognize the joy and magic that happens when eager children read out loud to shelter animals who crave and need loving human attention. What a fabulous idea!


Dog Ear-type reading programs have been studied by several prominent veterinary schools, including the University of California Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.


UC Davis reported that reading fluency improved as much as 30 percent, with 75 percent of the parents reporting that their children read aloud more frequently and with greater confidence.


The Cummings School compared reading programs where children read to dogs with reading programs where children read to people.


And guess what? The Cummings study concluded that children who read to dogs gained in reading ability and had a more positive attitude toward reading all together and that the children who read to people showed no significant improvement in ability or attitude.


How can we explain that? Animals make wonderful reading companions. They listen attentively, allowing the child to read at his or her own pace and in their own words. As a result, kids improve their reading skills in a non-judgmental, stress-free environment.


As the child is learning and building self-esteem, the shelter dogs and cats bask in the sounds of a sweet, soothing voice. The experience calms and relaxes the animals, making them a more adoptable prospect. How cool is that?


The first “Dog Ears” reading session will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the county shelter, 333 Wire Road.


Jennie Beck, the Children’s Services Coordinator from the ABBE Regional Library System, will train FOTAS volunteers to serve as reading assistants for the children during each 20-minute reading session.


Children age 5 and older are invited to attend. They will be given a choice of age-appropriate books selected by Jennie and her staff to read to one of the dogs or cats living in the shelter.


Then each child will sit with a volunteer companion and his or her selected animal companion at a designated quiet spot on the grounds of the shelter.


This first session does not require advance registration.


The “Dog Ears” reading program is one of several new on-site events that are taking place at the shelter and coordinated by FOTAS volunteers with support from the new shelter manager, Martha Chadwick, and her staff.


There are so may loving and lovely adoptable animals at the county shelter that need love, attention and most of all, a new place to call home.


Events like the Dog Ears reading program, birthday parties, doggie reunions, and other programs now in the planning stages are bringing together the county shelter, other county agencies and the community to give these animals a second chance.


For more information about “Dog Ears” or other events, call 803-514-4313 or email info@FOTASAiken.org


FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 333 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.