Mia Lewis, center, and Jana Lam, 13, read a book to sheep during the Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters event held at The Castaic Animal Care Center in Castaic on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Mutual benefit: KLAWS reading program supports students, shelter animals

Despite the fires last week, the winds this week and the potential for power shutoffs stopping classes daily, dozens of Castaic-area students decided to spend their after-school time reading to animals Wednesday.

The event, named the Barking for Books Halloween event hosted by Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters (KLAWS), was attended by approximately 60 students from elementary schools within the Castaic Union School District, Castaic Middle School and West Ranch High School.

Logan Whitlach, 8, reads the book , The Chocolate Chase to Labrador Retriever, Cowboy, during the Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters event held at The Castaic Animal Care Center in Castaic on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

The event involves young students, whether standing in front of the enclosures or on the ground in front of the animals, reading their favorite passages to pets in search of a permanent home. Event organizers say this type of interaction is of mutual benefit to both parties involved.

“The students are gaining literacy skills and they’re not being judged,” said Karen Cirrione, the event organizer and founder of KLAWS. “And the animals are being socialized and just getting some love from those kids, which aids in the adoption.”

And not only were there cats and dogs at the event for students to interact with, but also a variety of animals were there as well, including sheep, horses, rats and reptiles.

Male Pit Bull, Spanky barks as a Castaic student reads a book to him during the Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters event held at The Castaic Animal Care Center in Castaic on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“A lot of these animals have been misplaced from the fires or they’re possibly homeless,” said Castaic Middle School Assistant Principal Nicole Price. “They’re missing their owners and so they can get extra love while they might be lonely or anxious.”

During the event, kids were allowed to choose which books they read to the animals and to which animals they wanted to read. While some read “Twilight,” others read Dr. Seuss, and some students simply wanted to keep the animals company.

“I love animals,” said Cosette Hauer, a CMS eighth-grader. “All my animals are rescues, and I think it’s just really good to support the animals and be there for them when they’re alone.”

Sisters Mallory and Larkin Smith, an eighth-grader at Castaic Middle School and a fifth-grader at Live Oak Elementary, respectively, said they were both there because they enjoy animals and spending time with them.

Two-year-old German Shepherd Michelangelo lounges on his bed as he is read a story by a Castaic student during the Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters event held at The Castaic Animal Care Center in Castaic on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Mallory said she had brought “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” to read to the animals, while her younger sister had come to see if she could cuddle with some of the animals.

“I’m here today with my sister and to hang out with (the animals) … I feel like they’re really, really, really cuddly sometimes,” said Larkin. “I just love the way they’re just trying to find them a good home.”

CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle said Barking for Books was a great opportunity for the district to build on its “kindness” theme for the year, and sharing kindness. He also noted the event couldn’t have come at a better time, especially given what has happened in the last few days with the fires and electricity issues.

“Everybody is a little on the edge with these potential (power) shutdowns for the schools and the fires,” said Doyle. “So this is allowing kids to practice some reading skills, as well as connect with the animals.”

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