Sit Stay Read
September Literacy Month
with Sit Stay Read
The moment we walk into the classroom, silence falls and smiles appear. The soft whispers of ‘oohs’ and ‘awws’ echo between tightly-packed desks as teams of Certified Reading Assistance Dogs and volunteers fit themselves into the classroom’s landscape. During that hour, the sounds of excited reading and animated storytelling fill the room, and while students keep reading tails keep wagging.
This would otherwise be an unusual sight for 11:30 on a Friday morning in a Chicago Public School classroom, but for these students at Daniel R. Cameron Elementary School in Humboldt Park, this is a routine Friday morning with SitStayRead.
“Since partnering with SitStayRead, my students’ behavior, attention, and focus have improved,” said second-grade teacher Erica Rodrigeuz. “On SitStayRead days, students come to class ready to learn and ready to engage. And while test scores show that SitStayRead is working academically, I cannot ignore the very real social impact the program has on my kids.”
Only 3 in 10 students entering fourth grade are proficient readers, and studies show that a low income student enters the first grade with only 25 hours of being read to, compared to the typical middle-income student that enters first grade with over 1,000 hours. We want to break that cycle, and help under resourced, low-income students increase their literacy skills and grow their confidence in reading and writing by bringing dogs into the classroom.
“These children in low-income schools with low reading scores are struggling in their ability to learn how to read, and so they have a lot of anxiety,” said Professor of Psychological Science at DePaul University Sandra Virtue. “By having the dogs just present shows a decrease in blood pressure and then they can focus on the skill of learning how to read.”
SitStayRead brings the magic of reading and writing, dedicated volunteers, and caring Certified Reading Assistance Dogs together in the classroom to over 2,000, 1-3 grade students annually. We serve 17 Chicago Public Schools in low-income neighborhoods all over Chicago. With our proven canine-based curriculum, we are working to increase various literacy skills, including reading fluency, comprehension, written expression, and enhancing social-emotional learning.
We also work to establish positive attitudes towards reading and writing and develop an understanding of and connection with animals. SitStayRead is made possible by the teams of dedicated volunteers, both human and canine, that impact the lives of so many elementary-school students each year.
“Volunteering with SitStayRead has changed my life. I’m a happier person, seeing these kids’ faces light up when we walk in with the dogs, witnessing a child’s confidence grow, and especially being present when a child feels the spark of learning something new,” said Dog Team volunteer Christine, who volunteers with her Certified Reading Assistance Dog, Bobby. “Knowing that we are giving these disadvantaged young people a critical tool for success in life helps assuage my frustration at not being able to do more to right the wrongs in the world.”
SitStayRead is in need of volunteers, both with and without dogs, for this school year. If you’re interested in giving back for an hour a week during the school day, sharing a love of literacy with elementary students, and have a love of dogs, please visit our website to learn more about getting involved! sitstayread.org
Victoria Luisi, Volunteer Coordinator, SitStayRead