New program encourages young readers to connect with shelter animals

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Literacy Council of Alaska estimates more than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level. A new program in Anchorage hopes to change that and possibly get some animals adopted.

"When I was really little I used to hate reading in front of the class. I would get super nervous," 13-year-old Ashley Perry said.

Perry is the brains behind the reading program, named in her honor and recently launched at Anchorage Animal Care and Control. Readers of any age and skill level are encouraged to stop by the shelter during normal hours and read to the animals up for adoption."So the child that's learning how to read gets a positive interaction," Perry said.

Perry told KTUU she heard about a similar program in Michigan and was inspired when she went to adopt her own rescue dog, Chance. "There was another puppy in there that had been trained for fighting and we realized he was just so afraid of people and if he would have just had good human interaction it probably would have helped him get adopted."

In a place more familiar with strays than stanzas, Laura Atwood, the public relations coordinator for AACC, said the program will help animals build confidence with people."It's helping the ones who are shy maybe feel a little more comfortable."

Sarah Krug brought her three children to read to the animals on Friday."My son put one of the cats to sleep and one of the cats was reaching out trying to turn the pages for my daughter."

No adoptable animal is off limits for readers: "We always have cats but if someone wants to read to a dog, or our guinea pigs or a rabbit that's just fine," Atwood said. The shelter does require adult supervision for children and participants are asked to be respectful of the animals.

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