June 13, 2012
Rover-Time loves SitStayRead. Founded in 2003, SitStayRead improves a child’s reading fluency, makes reading fun and inspiring children to become lifelong learners. By improving literacy skills and fostering a love of learning, SitStayRead serves at-risk children from Chicago Public Schools and communities and strives to close the education gap.
SitStayRead was co-founded by MaryEllen Schneider & Sarah Murphy. MaryEllen taught therapy dog classes for Rainbow and Call of the Wild, and her experience with the people/dog connection led her to believe there was a need for a children’s program like SitStayRead in Chicago. Sarah had extensive experience in the non-profit sector, particularly in the areas of marketing, organizational development and strategic planning. The organization’s first program took place inside local libraries and after some reflection; MaryEllen and Sarah decided SitStayRead would have a larger impact inside Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The organization partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Literacy to develop a curriculum, and after forging its first relationships with CPS, made its way in to the classroom.
What makes this program unique? Their curriculum considered what a dog can add to a child’s life and invited them in to the classroom to help! Research has shown that pets can be good for people’s physical and emotional health. SitStayRead’s creative approach to involving dogs supports this by bringing in very well-trained dogs to act as a companion during a child’s learning experience. The dogs also teach children kindness and compassion towards animals, which ultimately impacts the child’s experience in their communities making them safer and more humane.
This non-profit is always looking to find more time, talent, and treasure from its supporters and there are several ways to get involved or help. The office is always in need of printer paper, as an example. They organize a special year-end celebration for all its participants that include a presentation during which each student receives a Summer Reading Fun Pack. These backpacks are full of notebooks, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and erasers to encourage each child to keep up with their reading practice over each summer. Children also get to choose one brand new book for themselves, as well as one to pass along to a younger reader; so brand new children’s books are always a welcomed donation. They would love to find additional volunteers, with their dogs or without. And of course, if one couldn’t give in any of these ways, financial contributions or pledges are the easiest way to make a huge difference in the lives of Chicago’s children.