Not many people can say they’ve read a story to a cat. Surprisingly, our furry feline friends can prove to be avid listeners, like my cat Jazzy! Jazzy and I have been registered through Pet Partners as an Animal Assisted Therapy Team since 2018. The Paws and Tales Program allows children to read books to cats, which is an awesome way to encourage children to read even just one page.
Prior to the pandemic, Jazzy and I would spend time at two libraries in Evansville to promote the importance of childhood literacy. When libraries began to re-open after pandemic closures, I was contacted about Jazzy returning to the libraries to continue these programs. My first thought was, “Of course we want to return!” But then I thought, “Is this really safe?”
At that time, I knew that I had to make an informed decision about whether or not we should continue to participate in this program. I began by reviewing information provided from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Although Jazzy is a healthy cat, I wanted to ensure both Jazzy’s and the program participants’ safety.
According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence of animals spreading COVID-19 to people, but there have been some reported cases of people spreading the virus to animals who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
There are multiple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to animals, including COVID-19 vaccinations for pet owners, staying 6 feet away from other people, avoiding places where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or where social distancing cannot be maintained, asking individuals who may be sick to wear a mask when around the animal, and cleaning the animal’s harnesses and supplies on a regular basis.
Since it has been longer than a year since Jazzy and I were able to participate in the Paws for Tales Program, I also reviewed Pet Partners’ safety precautions, which require all individuals to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after petting the animal.
With this information, I made the decision to take Jazzy for her first library appearance since March of 2020. At first she wanted to explore, but she was easily able to refocus once she remembered that this is an opportunity to earn treats and be petted.
There were only a few participants, which was ideal for reintroducing Jazzy to the library environment. The children were able to read to Jazzy, give her a treat, pet her, and brush her. The children seemed to have a wonderful time interacting with Jazzy and her return proved to be a great success!
Jazzy loves listening to children and adults read to her. Remember, Jazzy is always willing to listen regardless of the storyteller’s reading ability! Jazzy and I are scheduled to return to Red Bank Library in Evansville, IN on Thursday, September 16th from 4:30 pm — 5:30 pm CST. The plan is to begin offering this program monthly.
If you’re looking for a way to encourage your child to read aloud, bring them out to read to Jazzy!
Lori Powell, LCSW, is a Youth First Social Worker at Vogel Elementary School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 78 Master’s level social workers to 105 schools in 12 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First’s school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.