The canine volunteers at SitStayRead visit classrooms in some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. The elementary school students they meet often juggle more responsibilities than most kids their age, so learning to read can seem like an extra chore.
“If you feel stressed about reading, like some of our little guys do, reading to a dog makes them feel more comfortable, more ready, and more open to the experience of reading,” says Kate McIlvain, Program Director at SitStayRead.
That is why volunteer dogs like Tillie, a Border Collie mix, come to classrooms and listen to students read. The canine companions enjoy any book, but dog-themed titles like Go, Dog, Go or Because of Winn-Dixie are popular choices. Tillie is happy to give her undivided attention and doesn’t mind if her reading partner stumbles on a word or two. Experiencing that kind of support and unconditional love while they read helps kids build confidence in their own literacy skills.
Often they’re having so much fun interacting with their new furry friends that they forget they’re learning.
“We’re really excited that we get to bring our program into schools and provide additional support on top of what the teachers are already doing to help make a fun, safe, comfortable, caring learning environment for our kids,” says Kate.
When the school year ends, SitStayRead holds a “Keep Reading Celebration” at every school they visit. At the party, the kids receive books and school supplies to bring home to encourage them to continue building their literacy skills throughout the summer.
This year, thanks to support from long-time First Book partner KPMG, SitStayRead was able to use the First Book Marketplace to double the number of books that kids took home over summer break.
Unfortunately, the dogs can’t go home with the kids, too. But they will always remember their four-legged reading buddy and the excitement and the confidence-building they felt reading with them every time they pick up their books.
SitStayRead was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with KPMG & KPMG’s Family for Literacy – a unique employee engagement program featuring volunteer opportunities, book distributions, celebration events and fundraising efforts that provide books for First Book programs in KPMG communities. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your classroom through the First Book Marketplace.