What do students at Center City Public Charter School (CCPS), Petworth campus in Washington, D.C., look forward to at school? Getting to learn all about animals!

The fifth grade students benefit from a partnership between their school and Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), an animal welfare organization serving the D.C. area. The program weaves social emotional learning into a year-long initiative that includes guests, journaling, an HRA shelter tour, and a humane- themed classroom library. “We’ve been building and strengthening our partnership with Humane Rescue Alliance for five years,” says Nazo Burgy, the school’s principal.

Promoting literacy is an integral part of the program. HRA has been providing Kind News magazine, RedRover’s publication for children about animals, to their local schools for over 11 years, and this year, they’re sponsoring the magazine for every student as CCPS!

Recently, the school and HRA teamed up with PAL (People Animals Love) to implement a program called Ruff Readers, where students read to dogs every Wednesday. “I’ve seen my students gain more confidence in reading from the Ruff Readers program. I believe the joy and connection they feel by having dogs nearby has contributed to their progress,” says Shannon Nuzzelillo, fifth grade teacher at CCPS. Students have been thrilled with the opportunity. “I can’t wait until next Wednesday!” says Sam, one participant.

Is the program making an impact? They don’t have to wonder. Reports Debbie Duel, HRA’s Director of Humane Education, “At the end of each school year, we ask the students to write a letter to a future fifth grader about what to expect. One student, Amara, wrote, ‘Being with HRA will change your mind about animals that you see on the streets.’ Another student, Cesia, wrote, ‘I was surprised when I heard that there will never be enough homes for pets.  I changed my ways since the program started because now I make sure I try to call the shelter when I see an animal in danger.’”

“And – two years after going through the program – one seventh-grader, Jose, reached out about getting his pets spayed and neutered. HRA was able to spay/neuter, vaccinate, and microchip both dogs.

“The participants in our program have the opportunity to make the world a better place for animals and people,” says Debbie. “We’re so excited to see what they do!”

Interested in helping children develop empathy? Learn more about the RedRover Readers program and Kind News magazine at RedRover.org/Readers >>