My Journey to SitStayRead(.org)
By Barbara Bammer
(Online Product Manager at Atlas Travel & Technology Group)
This is my dog Hydrox and I think he’s super cool. In mid-2010 I adopted him from an organization called PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) and it was basically love at first sight. Hydrox is about 6 years old now, and has an AKC Canine Good Citizen title under his belt, along with about two years of agility classes. He came to live with me at a rough time in my life, and unquestionably helped lift me up. Because of that, because of how awesome I think he is, I’ve wanted to find a way to share him with others. Back in the early spring, a quick Google search brought me to learn more about the SitStayRead organization.
From their website: SitStayRead’s mission is to improve literacy skills and foster a love of learning in children in low-income neighborhoods. Founded in 2003, SitStayRead brings teams of trained volunteers and Certified Reading Assistance Dogs into 16 Chicago Public Schools in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. SitStayRead is the leading literacy organization in the United States to use dogs as a tool to improve reading in grades one through four. Dogs enable SitStayRead to tackle the serious issue of childhood illiteracy in a fun way, and test scores prove that our programs improve reading fluency.
Being an avid reader, this was a no brainer for me. Becoming a Book Buddy at SitStayRead was actually quite easy. It required participation in the volunteer orientation session, obtaining a background check and then attendance of reading sessions as a shadow to a Book Buddy, contributing as a Book Buddy myself, and then shadow of a dog team in preparation for the first dog team session with Hydrox. Becoming a dog team required me to attend the dog team informational meeting, along with Hydrox passing the SitStayRead dog team test. The test is administered in the SitStayRead offices, typically with at least another dog team or two. The test measures temperament, recovery from stimulation, behavior of dog when strangers approach, etc.
I’m delighted to share that after a successful test, Hydrox and I had our first dog team session assignment Friday, November 18. As a dog team, Hydrox and I spend about 5 minutes with each child assigned to us as they sat on the floor and read to him. The books utilized in the classroom always have a dog component to them, so in addition to their reading we also talk about what happens in the book and incorporate a discussion around Hydrox as it relates to the story.
Once Hydrox and I have a dog team session or two under our belt, I’ll be sure to share more of the experience of volunteering for SitStayRead, and this great cause, with you in the future.