Rescue Readers Program

Rescue Readers Program

This innovative program aims to increase knowledge of animal care, shelters and the lives of pets in our community, and supports the development of literacy skills.


Humane Society Hastings Prince Edward is proud to offer the Rescue Reader Program to students in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. This Program aims to increase knowledge of animal care, shelters and the lives of pets in our community, and supports the development of empathy and literacy.

Centred around a visit to HSHPE, students are welcomed and introduced to life at the shelter, take a tour, and have the chance to meet some of the animals and read to them. The visit may be supported by pre and/or post-visit learning activities.

Shelter visits

  • Rescue Reader Sessions are held Tuesday- Friday 11am-12pm and last approx. 1 hour.
  • Schools are required to arrange transportation to and from the HSHPE.
  • Each visit begins in the Community and Education Room, where students are met by HSHPE staff who will welcome them, talk about daily life at the shelter and outline preferred conduct to maximize safety and respect for animals.
  • Students are then taken on a tour of the Animal Care and Community Education Centre and have the chance to view adoptable animals, and learn more about our facility.
  • After the tour, students are divided into small groups or pairs and stationed in different areas where they are encouraged to read to cats, dogs, rabbits, rats and other small animals
  • After we’ve finished our stories, we will move back to the Education Centre and discuss our favorite parts of the visits, if the animals liked the story, etc.
  • Every student will take away an information package about HSHPE with colouring pages, etc.

The benefits of interaction with animals

by Dr. Andrew Moss, Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Over 1 million Canadian children have weak literacy skills (including poor reading fluency, comprehension and range of vocabulary). This is a significant cause for concern given that childhood literacy is predictive of later academic achievement, earning potential, educational attainment and even physical and mental health. Children who find the task of reading particularly difficult often have lower motivation to read and greater anxiety related to reading.

Research* has demonstrated the positive impact animals can have on a child’s overall academic performance, emotional regulation, and social skills. It has been found that interacting with animals decreases human cortisol levels, heart rate, and self-reported anxiety.

It is believed that these changes in the child’s anxiety response, are created due to animals being able to naturally offer unconditional acceptance as well as helping to create a safe, non-judgemental space for children to learn and grow. As a result, children no longer have the barrier of anxiety to negatively impact their learning, educationally, socially, or emotionally.

This means a child’s sense of competence, motivation to learn, autonomy, and level of social connection all improve. As a result, children engaging with animals as part of their learning exhibit improved educational attainment, emotional development, and pro-social communication behaviours.

  • Reference list/evidence base available upon request. Email us.
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