WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Palm Beach County student and dozens of other kids in our area are getting a boost in their schoolwork while also volunteering to improve the lives of some furry friends.
The delight that comes from one particular Zoom call is complete with surprises for 10-year-old Leila Cowell.
She loves animals, rescued owls in her front yard and dotes on her two cats, dog and fish. The fish is named "Wolf," after another of her favorite animals.
“Horses are just so sweet, and I think that I have a real connection with them. I love riding them, and wolves are just so majestic and beautiful," she explained.
Leila is also delighted by the adoptable pets she meets over Zoom calls with Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League's literacy program for children. She has read to different adoptable pets more than two dozen times in the last year.
"I do it about three times a month. I wish I could do it more," she said.
Leila always picks animal stories to read to the dogs and cats.
On this particular day, Education Manager Shellie Kalmore set up the Zoom call to link Cowell with cats Lennie and Squiggy. The felines were sitting curled up and cuddling in a box in a room of adoptable cats.
"It helps calm the cats and dogs," Leila explained.
Kalmore said her presence in the room and the sound of children reading helps to draw the pets out socially, making them more adoptable.
"They don't really socialize well, but when I read to them they allow miss Shellie to pet them or they go to sleep or they are less skittish," Leila said.
The program also benefits her reading skills.
“I know a lot more words, my vocabulary is much better,” Leila said.
The "We’re All Ears Virtual Reading Program" at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League has open slots for virtual and in-person read-aloud sessions for children.
Click here to register for the We're All Ears Virtual Reading Program at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.