I always get excited when I hear about a fellow Big Brother or Sister who has found a MentorLA blog post helpful. That’s why I was elated to learn that Big Sister (and fellow Junior Board member) Jessica and her Little had a super fun time at the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista! I caught up with Jess to learn about her PetSpace experience with her 9 year old Little Sister, as they engaged with the services the pet adoption center provides.
Big Sister Jess was drawn to the Paws & Pages event listed in our #TopPicks November ’17 Outings post because she knew her 4th grade Little needed to improve her reading skills. She also recognized that her Little would enjoy spending time with the cats, although she was a little afraid of dogs after having been bitten by one when she was younger. While all of the outings they’ve had have been fun over the past 6 months they’ve been matched, she wanted to do something special and educational. Jess realized that this outing might present an opportunity for her Little to overcome her fear of dogs, improve her confidence in reading, and enjoy the company of her beloved cats. Paws & Pages seemed like it’d be a fun and academically-focused outing for the two of them to engage in.
Upon arriving at Annenberg PetSpace, Jess felt especially welcomed by the kind employees that greeted them. Meanwhile, her Little immediately hopped onto a comfy bean bag chair, ready to meet some animals. The employees brought in one of their adoptable dogs, Ravin, an older dog who had been abandoned by her family. Although she’d had a negative experience with a dog in the past, the one-on-one time with a kid-friendly pup helped show Jess’ Little that big dogs can be nice, too.
Paws & Pages incorporates an activity related to the books, so Jess’ Little crafted a puppet that she could bring around the PetSpace with her, along with a few books to read. When they made their way to the animals’ living area, Jess was impressed by the amenities for the pups. Each dog has their own glass-enclosed space, along with an interactive screen where you can learn more about the animal. To facilitate the reading experience, there is an opening in the wall where you can speak to the dog. Jess and her Little were particularly excited when they saw their doggie listener getting cozy as her Little began to read.
There are also separate rooms where little readers can meet, play with, and read to bunnies and kittens. Visitors have limited time in each of these rooms, depending on the number of other visitors waiting, but you can take multiple turns visiting the rooms. During these interactions, Jess realized that her Little was so distracted by reading to the kittens and bunnies, she wasn’t even thinking about how she was pronouncing words or that she was reading aloud. She saw her Little gaining confidence before her eyes! After all was said and done, her Little probably read 3 or 4 books. At one point, she was reading to one of the stuffed animals in the playroom, when some girls around her age came over to play with her. After playing for a bit, Jess re-engaged her Little in the story she was reading so that she could complete it. Great job, Jess!
To round out their day, Jess and her Little went on a tour of the PetSpace led by the education manager. All of the areas they viewed were transparent, so that anyone touring the building can see pets being groomed or visiting the vet, and even ask questions of the service providers on the other side of the glass. Jess and her Little learned a lot about the PetSpace, pet adoption, and the bond between humans and pets during their visit. Not only was she impressed by the facility, but she was also impressed by the mindfulness of the staff and volunteers that assisted them throughout their visit.
Jess definitely plans to return to the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace with her Little Sister because they were so happy and engaged throughout their time there. Her Little’s favorite part was when she read to the kittens, an experience which has sparked ideas for future educational outing. After their outing, Jess felt reading to pets was just the tip of the iceberg for how they could dedicate their outings to reading. She’s starting to brainstorm ideas like exploring the library, having her Little over to bake and read, or visiting museums where reading is a part of the learning experience.
The Annenberg PetSpace is free to visit, though parking is $1. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as holidays (check their schedule before making plans to visit). Jess recommends either eating beforehand, or bringing a lunch to enjoy out on the lawn (they do not permit food/drinks inside the building, though there is a basic snack bar if you need a bite).
While the Paws & Pages activity is geared toward a younger, elementary school audience, your Little could easily bring their own book and enjoy some time with pets. This could be the perfect outing for visitors of any age- whether your Little is looking to get over a fear of animals, loves animals, needs to improve their reading skills, and/or absolutely loves reading, this could be a great experience for them.
If you would be open to highlighting your outing experience on Mentor Los Angeles, please contact me! Sharing your encounter may help other matches who are looking for fun things to do around our city.