In this case, once upon a time is now, and the boy, 10-year-old Sean Rodriguez of Pennsylvania, improves his reading skills by reading to cats at the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Berks County. The cats benefit because the interaction helps socialize them to humans before they are adopted.
If you think the story can't get any better, you're wrong. Kristi Rodriguez, Sean's mother, works for the ARL, and after seeing her son's success, she helped turn the experience into a program called Book Buddies. Now, area children in grades 1-8 can practice reading with cat friends. The animals find much needed companionship, and the children receive the benefit of having an attentive, judgment-free audience. For more information about Book Buddies, click here.
I believe in the powers of reading, pets, and caring, and I also believe we need happy endings that aren't fairytales. Discovering ARL's Book Buddies program pleasantly reminded me that the pure goodness we find in some stories comes from real-world inspiration.
The great thing about heartwarming nonfiction is that we can keep many of those stories going forever.