Read and Relax: SPCA launches new volunteer program

A cat sits in the lap of a staff member reading at the Prince Albert SPCA. The organization has launched a new Read and Relax Volunteer Program where volunteers read out loud to animals. -- SPCA photo.

The Prince Albert SPCA has developed a new volunteer reading program, but needs a bit of help to get it rolling.

The SPCA announced their new Read and Relax Volunteer Program on Thursday, which allows volunteers to read out loud to animals at the shelter.

SPCA operations manager Ashlee Bober said animals benefit from being around humans and hearing their voices. She’s hopeful the program will not only help the animals, but encourage Prince Albert residents of all ages to start reading.

“It’s very calming and de-stressing for the animals to be with people in a very calm setting where we’re not necessarily running around and being very high energy,” Bober explained. “To just be able to sit there and talk to them (and) being able to hear the sounds of our voice is very soothing for them. It can help make the place a little less scary here….

“At the same time, it is a really great way for people to spend some quiet time reading to the animals, and also for kids, learning how to work on their reading skills.”

The program has officially started, but Bober said they’re still looking for furniture donations like a couch, arm chairs, book shelves, a coffee table, and a rug. The goal is to setup a special reading room where volunteers can visit and read to animals.

They’re also looking for book donations spanning all ages and interests, including children’s books, young adult novels, comic and graphic books, teen readers, and adult novels. Participants are asked to bring their own books until the SPCA builds up its catalogue.

Bober said they want to create a Little Free Library-type room at the SPCA, where residents can drop off a book, read another one with the animals in the reading room, and take it home if they like it.

“It’s quite an enjoyable opportunity,” she said. “It’s very minimal stress for everyone involved, including the staff here at the SPCA. It’s a great way for people to get involved with the animals to help us to socialize the animals, to get the animals out of their kennels and spend some time with people.

“There are no negatives. There are no downfalls about it. There are only positives and good rewards out of it for people and the animals.”

Bober said the program makes a good extracurricular activity for school children and teens. The program is also open to the general public, including school classes, care homes, and group homes.

Volunteers do not have to register to take part, but if there are too many people trying to read at one time, some volunteers will be asked to return at a different date.

Bober added that SPCA staff will choose which animals are best suited for the reading room.

“The one nice thing is that it’s something where anybody and everybody can come in and enroll through the program,” she said. “It doesn’t require a volunteer application or an appointment or anything. People can just come in and read to the animals. However, that being said, we only have so many rooms in the building.”

Residents who want to donate books or furniture to the SPCA can phone the SPCA at 306-763-6110. Bober said they can pick up donations if they have to.

The Prince Albert SPCA is located on North Industrial Drive north of the river.