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RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Elementary school students made a visit to the county animal shelter on Tuesday for the recently launched “Tales for Tails program by the Randolph County Juvenile Reporting Center.  

A group of Randolph County elementary school students is picked up and taken to the Randolph County Animal Shelter after school every Tuesday. 

They get to crack open a book of their choice and read to dogs and cats at the animal shelter. 

“I enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they come in, and they get the read, and then at the end, when they get to leave, telling the stories to everyone else about … how good it is for them to be able to read to the animals,” Randolph County Animal Services Director Jonathan Moody said.

Randolph County Juvenile Reporting Center started its “Tales for Tails” program to help elementary school students improve their literacy skills. 

“About 60% of youth in Randolph County are below reading proficiency … we decided to get kids excited about reading again and wanted to collaborate with animals,” Randolph County Juvenile Reporting Center Director Pamela Resch.

Thirty kids are participating in the program. 

They are split into groups and rotate for the weekly visits to the animal shelter and reading comprehension in the center’s classroom. 

“We have all of our tutors and our case managers that are right there helping them,” Resch said. “So it’s less intimidating for them to work on that.” 

The shelter is a space where they can feel confident reading out loud. 

“Animals don’t judge if they mess up a word or if they don’t understand something,” Resch said. 

Many of the dogs and cats look forward to the weekly visit. 

Storytime is a chance for shelter animals to interact with people, and it helps them with their social skills. 

“They’re not as loud. They’re not as noisy with the other people, and then they actually accommodate them to where when we have other people come in … they’re not getting as irate with that,” Moody said.

The students read to different shelter animals each visit. 

The program runs from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the kids read several books while at the shelter.  

“We currently have kids that are in kindergarten all the way to fifth grade,” Resch said.

Kids participating in the program have shown growth in their reading since the program started in March. 

“We do have students that have graduated from that program,” Resch said. “We’ve had students that have started where they haven’t been able to really read through an entire book, and now they’re completely reading.” 

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The Juvenile Day Reporting Center works with schools to find out what participating students’ grades are and their level of comprehension, and they monitor them every 36 to 90 days while they’re in the program. 

It’s open to all Randolph County elementary school kids.  

The free program will be offered this summer along with free transportation to and from the animal shelter.