This 6-Year-Old Boy Reads to Shelter Dogs

There have been news stories about kids practicing and honing their reading skills by reading to dogs. They are, after all, a pretty non-judgmental audience. There have also been news stories about kids reading to shelter dogs to help both socialize the dogs and keep them calm and relaxed in the stressful environment of a noisy kennel. We love all of these stories, but our favorite kid reading to shelter dogs is this one.

Every Thursday afternoon at Carson Animal Shelter in Los Angeles County, a 6-year-old boy comes in with a mat and a picture book and patiently reads to a pitbull named Pirate. The kennels are noisy, as the dogs no doubt vie for the attention of any human that comes by, but that doesn’t deter Jacob Tumalan. Although his reading isn’t perfect, he perseveres even through all the noise.

Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was just 2 years old, after he lost many of his verbal skills. His aunt, Lisa Ferranti, and her daughter Lindsey volunteer at the animal shelter, where Lindsey started the reading program, “Rescue Readers.” About a year ago, they brought Jacob with them and noticed the bond he seemed to share with the animals.

“Jacob is so calming,” his aunt told NBC Los Angeles. “He walks through and he’s not yelling or banging on the cages. He comes with a book and his mat and sets it up, and the dogs just listen.”

Jacob’s mom, Katherine Tumalan, noted that Jacob has always liked books but struggled to read. After reading to the dogs for six months, he now reads at a third-grade reading level. And the relationship isn’t only one-sided: “If I read to the dogs they will come out of their cages and find homes,” Jacob said. “They have to find new homes because they are alone.”

Like Jacob, many of the animals simply need a little patience and love.

Rachel L. MacAulay

Founder at Challa & Haggis
Avid reader, lapsed wanderer, reformed cynic, and sometime cyclist. Believes laughter really is the best medicine.

Latest posts by Rachel L. MacAulay (see all)