When 2-year-old Jacob Tumalan appeared to lose all verbal abilities, doctors diagnosed him with autism. He’s now 6, and while he can be shy, his mother told NY Daily News that he has always had a passion for reading. When he went with his cousin and his aunt, Lisa Dekowski-Ferranti, to the Carson Animal Shelter, he found a way to use that love of reading as a way to help both the dogs there and himself. Jacob’s cousin and aunt both volunteer at the animal shelter, and his cousin Lindsay set up a group called Rescue Readers. According to ABC News, kids who join the group go to the animal shelter and read to the animals.
Jacob made sure to join after his very first visit to the shelter.
Since then, Jacob has visited the shelter once a week. He brings books and a mat, so he has a place to sit in front of the dog cages. His reading keeps the dogs company and gives them more interaction with a person before they find a home. It’s also calming to the dogs and helps them relax.
Jacob puts some thought into his book choices, too. The Huffington Post reports that one dog named Pirate had problems with cats. When Jacob would read to Pirate, he chose books with cats.
Jacob’s reading has improved to a third-grade level, and just as importantly, the volunteer work has brought him out of his shell. Jacob never liked loud noises, but when he’s reading to the dogs, he’s able to stay calm and focused the entire time. The bond between dogs and people is always special, but what’s great about Jacob’s bond with the shelter dogs is how they help each other. For another heartwarming tale, check out this pit bull that helped a boy with autism open up to his mother.