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Reading to barnyard animals part of new literacy program

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You may have heard of Men That Stare At Goats, but have you ever considered reading to one?

The Peace Area Riding for the Disabled Society hopes the connection between animals and youngsters will help in literacy development in youth across the region.

PARDS Executive Director Jennifer Douglas says its new Critter Connection literacy program allows participants to build their reading skills by reading to an animal of their choice at the facility. She adds while they use horses in all of their programs, they have also branched out.

“Three goats, couple of ducks, two sheep, two guinea pigs,” she laughs.

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Douglas explains she got the idea from similar programs in other jurisdictions, and did their best to take some of the successes from those, and turn it into a PARDS-specific program.

“Some lessons it might be reading to a sheep, [or] sentence scavenger hunt, and the kids will write their own story about the 10 weeks they spent with all the animals,” she says.

If the program picks up steam, Douglas believes the idea could also lead to other sources of revenue for the organization.

“Everything that we do we try and have as many possible outcomes to it, so bringing in these critters for the literacy program we also recognize there is nothing stopping us from doing petting zoo weekends or petting zoo birthday parties,” she notes.

Douglas says the program was made possible in a big way through the generosity shown by those in the community despite difficult times. She says it reinforces her belief in community and strengthens the resolve that what they do is recognized as important.

“Even in a time like this, where it’s not so easy to call up and say we need $1,000 to buy a new saddle, or whatever, we still can reach out and, if equity is what people have to offer, they will be here,” she says. “We are so very fortunate to have built that community of support over the last 36 years now we’ve been in operation.”

PARDS offers equine-assisted therapy to Peace Country residents that involves a range of activities interacting mainly with horses to promote physical and mental health for disabled individuals.

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