What’s cuter than children and cats? Children reading books to cats!
An image of a young boy reading to an orange tabby cat uploaded to Reddit over the weekend has gone viral, raising awareness about a “Book Buddies” program in which children in grades 1-8 can read to homeless cats at The Animal Rescue League of Berks County (Berks ARL) in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.
Once youngsters complete five books, they receive a prize like stickers or pretzels. According to the shelter’s website: ”The program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”
“Book Buddies” started in August 2013, inspired by a fifth grader named Sean, the 10-year-old son of the shelter’s program coordinator Kristi Rodriguez, who was having trouble reading. As Berks ARL Marketing & Communications Director Beth Ireland tells TIME, “We took him to the cat room and said, ‘Why don’t you practice reading here? The cats aren’t going to care if you mess up.’”
So far the children have been reading a lot of vampire books to the cats, according to Ireland. NewsFeed has come up with some other recommendations: Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots, and the Garfield comic strips.