Shelter dogs love to be read to by children. Who knew?

Volunteers reading to dogs

(Top left) Each volunteer shift at Pasadena Humane begins with CJ and Theo flipping through a binder, describing all the dogs in the shelter. This helps the boys choose which dogs they will read to that day. (Top right) CJ and Theo, best friends since kindergarten, now fifth graders, volunteer their time each week reading to shelter dogs as “Reading Rovers” at Pasadena Humane. (Bottom left) Theo reads to Collin (A507501), a 7-month-old husky mix, who is looking for a new home. (Bottom right) CJ reads to Ollie (A465192), a 7-year-old miniature schnauzer mix, who is ready for adoption at Pasadena Humane.

I love animals and I love children. Almost nothing is better than animals and children together. That’s why I’m proud that humane education has been central to our work at Pasadena Humane since we were founded 120 years ago.

For example, did you know that children who are reluctant readers find reading to a dog is much less threatening than reading to a parent or teacher? Many shelters have programs that take dogs into schools or libraries to help children strengthen their reading skills.

Guess what? We’ve found that children aren’t the only ones who benefit from reading aloud to dogs. The dogs benefit, too! At Pasadena Humane, we bring volunteer readers into our shelter to help the dogs become more relaxed and less stressed.

Enter Theo and CJ, Pasadena Humane Volunteers of the Month, who are avid readers and passionate animal lovers. The fifth-grade boys, who’ve been best friends since kindergarten, have now been volunteering together in our Reading Rovers program for more than a year.

Reading Rovers volunteers are adults — or children as young as six years old, accompanied by a parent or guardian — who sit in front of kennels and read to the dogs. The dogs are not picky listeners. Some volunteers read the newspaper, others read novels or story books. Non-fiction books work well, too.

Human reading companions can entice dogs who are shy and tend to linger in the back of the kennels to move forward for non-threatening interaction with people. Ultimately, this helps the dogs become more attractive to adopters.

Theo and CJ’s love for animals, especially dogs, inspired them to get involved with Pasadena Humane. They first enrolled in a six-week afterschool program, Kids for Animals Club, which motivated them to do more to help shelter animals. They insisted that their parents call the Pasadena Humane volunteer office to find other ways to get involved.

“Theo and CJ like Pasadena Humane because of their amazing and supportive staff,” shares CJ’s mom Kristine, who accompanies the boys during their volunteer shifts. “They are great with animals and patient with kids. The staff encourage their love and respect for animals.”

Each volunteer shift begins with Theo and CJ flipping through a binder, describing all the dogs in the shelter, to choose which dogs they will read to that day. Then they head out to the kennels of their favorite dogs, set up folding chairs in front, and read to the pups — typically a mix of fantasy or science books and school assignments.

No shift is complete without the boys scheming to bring a new pet home. Kristine jokes that they spend about ten minutes devising a strategy to adopt all the dogs between them and another five minutes trying to convince her how the plan could work.

Outside of volunteering, Theo and CJ are involved in sports, gaming clubs and friendly competition — like seeing who can read a book or solve a Rubik’s cube faster. They also love play dates together with their own dogs, Ume and Max.

Thank you so much, Theo and CJ, for being a dynamic duo and for reading to the pups at Pasadena Humane! Your contribution means the world to us and your furry friends!

Pasadena Humane offers many opportunities for kids to volunteer. Research has shown that volunteering helps children build character and strengthen connections, while increasing empathy and overall well-being.

Volunteering with shelter animals has the bonus of teaching responsibility while helping make a difference for pets in need.

To learn more about volunteer and educational opportunities for kids — from fostering or adopting a pet (with parents, of course), to attending our summer camps or afterschool activities — go to

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on May 12, 2023.