A Cat, a Girl, and a Literacy Journey

September 8, 2022 | Benay Hicks

Literacy journeys stretch way beyond the classroom; they begin the moment we experience words, language, and communication. Literacy journeys are as unique as we are and guide us throughout our lives. And sometimes those journeys even involve support from our animal companions.

As a young girl, Sheri Taylor was embarrassed by her reading level and speed; she was uncomfortable reading in the company of her peers. The answer to her anxiety was Althea, her cat, who gave her the comfort she needed to develop her reading skills.

Sheri recalls fondly, “Reading with her curled up in my lap just helped keep me relaxed and allowed me to take my time. She gave me a safe space to read as slowly as I needed without feeling embarrassed while I worked to catch up to my proper reading level.”

Sheri and Althea reading together, 16 years apart

For twenty years (from the time Sheri was four years old), Althea provided emotional support. The two continued the routine long after Sheri became a strong reader. Together, they powered through book after book, including the entirety of the Magic Treehouse series.

Today, now an adult and living in Durham, Sheri still finds solace in reading with her pets. She will often go to the park to read with her little dog, Stella, curled up on the blanket beside her. Lilith, Sheri’s sleek black cat, loves to keep her company at home while she’s reading…even thought she usually attempts to curl up on the actual book (as cats tend to do)!

Now instead of comforting her reading anxiety, Sheri’s pets provide a nice reminder to slow down and pick up a book: “Everyone knows the universal law that you can’t move if an animal is sleeping on you…might as well read!”

Thank you to Sheri for sharing her literacy journey! And to Althea for helping her along the way.

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