Every Friday, I feature places to take kids. And I hesitated to feature Cat Tales, the popular summer reading program at the SPCA of Wake County, because the slots are full this summer.
The hour-long program for grade schoolers and their parents is scheduled on select Tuesdays this summer, including Aug. 8 and Aug. 22. It offers a chance for kids in kindergarten to fifth grade to practice their reading skills. At the same time, cats at the center get some cuddles and socialization.
But Tara Lynn, Wake SPCA's communications manager (and formerly of WRAL-TV) tells me, there is hope for kids eager to read a book and pet a cat at the same time.
Lynn recommends people check back the night before or morning of because there often are cancellations for the program, which requires advanced registration. Also, because of the demand, the SPCA is working to organize enough volunteers to add more sessions this summer. Be sure to check the Cat Tales page on the SPCA's website to get the latest on spots that may open up. The cost is $5 per parent (who can bring no more than two kids).
This is the second year for the Cat Tales Summer Reading Adventure Program. Two local high school students started the program last year. This summer, rising eighth grader Catherine Kirch is helping to lead the program as part of her work to earn her Girl Scout Silver Award. Caroline Heaphy, a rising ninth grader, is helping to lead tours that are part of the program.
I took my rising second grader on Tuesday with one of her favorite books in hand - "Paloma," the third in the Shelter Pet Squad series by Cynthia Lord. Cat Tales, with its reading and cats, combines two of her very favorite things - books and animals.
She had a blast. And Marbles, the cat who hung out with us the most, was an enthusiastic listener and sweet companion, who was happy for the rubs and attention.
My daughter is a constant reader, but, for reluctant readers, reading out loud to an animal can help, studies have shown. Libraries, schools and other venues across the country have brought in dogs for kids to read to. Studies show it can help kids boost their reading abilities because they're able to read to a non-judgmental listener in a relaxed environment.
That's the goal with Cat Tales: A place for kids to read in a pressure-free atmosphere so they can gain confidence in their reading skills and help the center out by loving on the cats.
The hour-long program also includes a tour and craft. You can bring your own book, but books also are available for kids to borrow to read out loud. Participants are welcome to hang out with the animals after the program is over. We went in to play a bit more with the cats!