ERIE, Pa. — The Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania launched the Shelter Buddies Reading Program on Saturday morning with the help of seven Girl Scouts of Troop 36062.

Girl Scout Ali Hess said, “We wanted to do something with animals” for the community service project. “So, we decided to do an animal shelter or something.”

The James W. Parker Middle School fifth-grader said the Girl Scouts collected food, toys and other supplies donate to the shelter.

But they also offered to kick off the reading program.

“Once I fed him a little bit of treats, he calmed down a lot. He seemed to really enjoy the story,” said Ali.

Similar reading programs across the country suggest benefits.

“A lot of studies show that it actually helps with calming animals,” said Nicole Bawol, executive director of The Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. “It helps them to be more empathetic and compassionate. So, we actually did some research and we decided to develop our own Shelter Buddies Reading Program.”

Bawol said the benefits extend to boosting confidence and reading skills in children like Ali.

“It makes me feel really good about myself, because helping people is good,” Ali said after reading.

Bawol said, “They’re very excited and we’re very excited to offer such a soothing and an awesome program to the community, now.”

Groups interested in participating in program can call the shelter at 814-835-8331.