Web Exclusive: Program allows kids to read to farm animals

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Program coordinator Julie Toth says storytime has a calming effect on everyone on the farm.

GRANTVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Eight-year-old twins Julianna and McKayla Hoffman look forward to storytime, especially when it happens on the CATRA farm in Grantville, Pennsylvania.

They’re enrolled in the Paws n’ Read program which allows kids to practice their reading with a friendly, and sometimes furry audience.

“It allows them to be comfortable and not feel like they’re always being corrected if they pronounce something wrong,” said their mother, Jessica Hoffman.

Among the animals, the girls can read to are, horses, mini horses, a pig, dogs, goats, and alpacas. The program is open to kids of any age, whether they can read or just make up a story for the animals.

Program coordinator Julie Toth says storytime has a calming effect on everyone on the farm.

“The animal’s not going to correct the children; tell them they said a word wrong, tell them to stop at period,” Toth said. “It’s calming for the animal to hear the kid’s calming voice.”

Paws n’ Read is now in its fourth year and Toth said she’s seen it make a difference.

“They’re comprehending better, their fluency is better,” Toth said. “You can just see the kids grow week to week when they come back.”

“They had been born with a little bit of a cognitive delay,” Hoffman said of her daughters. “During the summer it allows them to keep up on the thing they’ve learned during the school year and not digress over the summer.”

The program has given the Hoffman twins a big confidence boost and some special four-legged friendships.

“They wouldn’t be participating in as much reading, I feel, if they didn’t have the ability to do it to an animal,” their mom said.

The program is free; CATRA just asks for donations to help maintain the farm.

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