Barking Book Buddies enters third season

Barking Book Buddies started off their new 2018-19 season on Oct.7 at the Cedar Bend Humane Society with tie-dye shirts, kids and animals. Seniors Maya Gabriele and Avanti Gulwadi came up with the idea of connecting the children and K-9 members of the Cedar Valley community through reading when they were only two freshmen.  

“At the time, Maya and I were looking for a yearly project for ALPHA, which is now ELP, and as we were researching, my mom sent me an article on a program in Missouri called ‘Shelter Buddies.’ Reading through the article, we were very inspired by the idea. We already had a connection to the Humane Society through volunteering, and we thought it would be a great idea to start a similar program of our own in our community as well,” Gulwadi said. 

Although the result of their inspiration, Barking Book Buddies, was only for a class project, Gabriele and Gulwadi fell in love with the idea so much that they decided to keep it going throughout their high school years even when ALPHA was over. 

“At first we didn’t have any idea on how to organize and keep things running. It was our very first read-in, and we had nothing but hope for this project to turn out good. Surprisingly, overall it went pretty good, and we received a lot of positive feedback, which inspired/encouraged us to keep going. Now it’s been two complete years, and this is our third year. Over time we’ve learned how to analyze and fix our mistakes. We’ve also learned a lot about communication and advertisement, which I am very thankful for because I believe it will help us a lot in college and in the future,” she said. 

Research shows that the action of reading to dogs doesn’t only improve children’s reading skills, but it also helps the dogs socialize, which increases their rates of getting adopted. 

“It sounds like a funny idea at first, but after doing quite a bit of research we found that the program benefits everyone involved. The kids benefit from reading out loud, which is good in itself, because it lets kids practice speech, but this also provides them a non-judgemental environment as opposed to reading in front of a teacher or a parent. It is also a great way to encourage kids to read. Actually, last Sunday I had a mom say to me, ‘I love this program, anything I can do to get her to read,’” Gabriele said. 

Being locked up in a kennel for the majority of the day can be very aggravating for dogs, especially the ones at CBHS considering the fact that most of them have very energetic and highly athletic traits.

“Living in a shelter can be very stressful for animals in general so having a close-up relationship helps them socialize, which makes them more appealing for potential adoption seekers. The Humane Society benefits from this program as well due to the publicity we provided and the over 200 participants we have brought to the shelter, some of whom later adopted animals,” Gabriele said.

The program may’ve started off with two ambitious, young women who were passionate about creating a better future, but it has gained many volunteers along the way. Having meetings once a month from the months October to May, Gulwadi and Gabriele spend a lot of time advertising for the event ahead of time. From school presentations to a variety of social media posts, Barking Book Buddies receives no less than hundreds of participants each year. 

“We keep it in the school year because most people are out of town traveling, including us, so we try to have as many kids as possible. We usually start advertising toward the end of summer; we hand out flyers to elementary schools so they can be sent home with students in their folders We hang posters around town, and most actively, we recruit a lot of people through Facebook. We hold four half an hour sessions from 1 to 3,” Gulwadi said. 

Their passion toward animals has increased and brought new fields of interest and activism such as children reading as a result of their strong advocacy for education as well as providing a loving home for animals. “The community has shown a lot of interest because lots of kids attend our read-ins. We have some kids that try it once, some who come a couple times throughout the year and some who don’t miss a single event. We have gotten a lot of support from our families and teachers, praising us for what we are doing,” Gabriele said. 

Even though they’ll carry their kind activism wherever they go, Gulwadi and Gabriele will be putting a period in their books as they graduate and seek new adventures. Nonetheless, they are looking for volunteers that will take their places and put effort into this program like it deserves. “It’s sad that this will be my last year running the program, but I hope it continues. Avanti and I thought about this in years prior, and we have two high school students who have stepped up and offered to run it next year. We have also been coordinating with the events director, Amy Anderson, about making the program more staff/volunteer run rather than just Avanti and I. Ultimately, if we can make it so the CBHS can sustain the program. That is how it will keep going,” she said.

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