Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Partners and Volunteers Make BIG Things Happen

Books Books Books Fall 09
It's been crazy busy around the SSR office but in a good, no GREAT, way! In addition to this being the final week of dog visits in five of our school programs--which means laminating and binding a self-authored book for every student--we were the recipients of a fabulous load of brand new books to give our students.

Thanks to our generous partners at Rock For Reading and their partner, Borders, every one of our 360 students gets to choose a book to take home to inspire them to keep reading over the holiday break. In addition, they get to choose a book to give to a younger reader--to share their love of reading. Our teachers are always looking for ways to keep students reading during break so we're thrilled to be able to help.

We rely on our hard-working volunteers to get the student-authored books bound and they came through for us, as always! And, as you can see (click on the photo to see the album), Laverne was there to supervise the job.

After the binding session, it was time to sort and pack the new gift books to get ready to deliver to the classrooms. How lucky were we to have volunteers from the Gap come in to lend a hand? We've never seen such organized workers!

Many thanks to our volunteers and partners for making this a wonderful holiday for all the second- third- and fourth-graders in our programs. Those books will be around for years to come and the kids will remember all you've done to help them "Keep Reading!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Surprise! Sit Stay Read is Published!

Yesterday's weather was perfect for strolling along Michigan Ave and enjoying the holiday cheer downtown. As we passed the Cultural Center we noticed a sign we couldn't resist--an exhibit at the Tourism Gallery across the street on Randolph--"Sidewalks: Photographs by Charles Osgood and Stories by Rick Kogan". Of course we had to check it out and, boy, what a surprise we got!

The photos on display are from the "Sidewalks" column in the Tribune Magazine. As you may recall, Sit Stay Read was featured in March 2008. Well, look who's now in the latest book, "Sidewalks II"--that's Lisa Wiersma with her SSR dog, Turner! How cool is that!!

Be sure to drop by the gallery to see the exhibit and, if you time it right, you can even join Rick for a lunchtime discussion.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shandy's Portrait Unveiling

We couldn't resist inviting some friends over on Friday for the unveiling of Shandy's incredible oil portrait! That's Cody and Tish posing in the background with Bandit.

Our friend John painted Bandit's portrait last year and then recently surprised us with one of Shandy. Aren't we lucky to have a friend with such talent?!

You can click on the photo for a closer view but it really doesn't do the paintings justice. John did a great job of capturing the personalities of both pups and the texture of the oil on Shandy's chest looks just like her fur. Amazing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shandy's Kidlet Visitors

Shandy might be an old gal but she still wanted to be right in the middle of the action when Mike and Gracie Murphy visited the office this morning.

Mom, Sarah Murphy, is SSR's co-founder so, of course, Mike and Gracie are book lovers. At this point Gracie prefers to eat books rather than read them but it's a start.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spooky Pooch Was a Blast

Pooch Parade 2009
Sarah Scott and her team, Debbie, Stacy, Sarah, and, of course, Milo and Lulu had a great time talking with folks at the Botanic Gardens' first Spooky Pooch parade on Halloween.

The costumes were a riot and everyone had a smile on their face. I think we have a new Halloween tradition! Click on the photo to see the full album. You won't believe the creativity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gorgeous Jack O Lantern Pups

Not sure where these photos came from so my apologies for not being able to credit them but they were too good not to share. Of course I love the Beagle one because it looks like Shandy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moved to Tears--In a Good Way

I dare any dog lover, but especially our Sit Stay Read volunteers, to read Joy Butler's incredibly touching story about Shandy and not be moved.

True, I may be biased, but the final paragraph brought me to tears and sent me looking for Shandy for a hug.

Although she spends most of her workday under my desk Shandy still finds time to take new dogs, like Jack here, under her wing and show them the ropes. That's my girl!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sit Stay Read in Today's News!

We're so excited!

Be sure to pick-up today's Chicago Sun-Times and check-out the great article on the Sit Stay Read program at Sunlight African Community Center! You can read the story here but you'll want to grab the newspaper so you can see the photos of Tojo, Stella, and the kids.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

He Says Reading Saves Lives

Members of the President's cabinet are in Chicago today to address ways to combat teenage violence. I hope they read the article Mourning in Chicago in the October issue of The Atlantic.

I'm sure it's no surprise that the story is about the terrible toll murder is taking on the children of our city. Told through funeral home proprietor Spencer Leak Sr, the article chronicles the loss of young lives on Chicago's south Side.

It's not a pretty story but one worth reading. The final paragraph is especially compelling. Mr. Leak ends with a hopeful appeal to President Obama to, "devote some attention to low-income children who can't read. They are our future murderers," he says.

While I agree with Mr. Leak, at Sit Stay Read we prefer to present ideas in a positive light. Hence our new t-shirt design--Teach Reading, Save Lives. Yes, it's that important.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Rottweiler's Vigil

This story from the CBS Sunday Morning News will warm your heart.

Be sure your pup is nearby because you'll want a big furry hug. We never know what the next moment will bring so keep your loved ones close.

This is an Original David Hockney

Reading The NY Review of Books sometimes feels like doing homework--it's challenging, it opens your mind, you know you "should" finish it, but it feels daunting. What keeps me reading is finding a gem that makes me wonder where else I'd find that article or hear about that story.

Today's gem is an article on David Hockney's passion for using the iPhone Brushes app. A wonderful glimpse into the mind of a creative genius who, at 72, is still embracing new tools to share his vision.

And, because of that, I'm able to share an original David Hockney with you! This is one of a series of paintings of dawn seen from his bed. How cool is that?!

Only thing cooler would be seeing it on an iPhone. I'd even break the bank and buy one if I was on Mr. Hockney's speed dial list.

Lawrence Weschler's article is well worth reading in full but this closing quote is my favorite, "People from the village," he says, craning back over that shoulder, "come up to me and tease me, 'We hear you've started drawing on your telephone.' And I tell them, 'Well, no, actually, it's just that occasionally I speak on my sketch pad.'"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Librarian Changed his Life

If you're in need of a lift today, look no further than this inspiring story.

Back in 1956 a boy stole a library book. Unbeknown to him, the librarian saw him take it. Rather than confront him, she came up with a plan to secretly help him on the path to becoming a great reader.

Thanks to StoryCorps, you can actually hear Olly Neal tell his story to his daugher, Karama (pictured.) Awesome.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Special Pumpkin

Happy October!

Although Shandy's not a big fan of costumes, she's occasionally deigned to wear something festive for the kids. I can't believe this photo of my little pumpkin is from way back in 2003. Cauren must be in 8th grade now. Wow.

If your pup is a Halloween fan, be sure to enter the photo contest by our friends at You could win a $100 gift certificate!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Faraday Spruce-Up

Look at the colorful new sign on the children's playground at Faraday Elementary!

During our visit yesterday for a meeting, we saw Principal Dr. Shirley Scott thanking the volunteers from Heitman who spent the day painting, planting flowers, and generally sprucing-up the school grounds.

That's third-grade teacher (and Sit Stay Read supporter) David Groves pictured with Dr. Scott. Although the dogs aren't likely to notice the colorful improvements, our volunteers sure will!

Monday, September 21, 2009

New! Collectible Dog Bookmarks

Here they are--our fabulous bookmark models!

That's Slugger and Brady the winners from Guest Bartender night at Lizard's Lounge, Rocky our Dog of the Year, and Shandy, the original Sit Stay Read dog.

We're so excited about our first edition of collectible bookmarks and can't wait for the kids in our programs to see them.

For a limited time you can get your very own set of these fun new bookmarks. Simply make a donation before Oct 31st and we'll include all four bookmarks with your acknowledgment letter. You help kids learn to read and get a gift, too, how's that for a win-win!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Today in the Office

Does this ever happen to you? Everyone's working quietly (or sleeping) and suddenly spontaneous play breaks out. No? Watch the video. You need to work with us at Sit Stay Read.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pierre--Our Online Star!

We were so excited when author Joy Butler asked to use a photo of Sit Stay Read dog, Pierre, to illustrate an article about reading assistance dogs!

You can read Joy's article and see Guy Franklin's Pierre here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shandy's Birthday Tribute Page

My sincere thanks to Shandy's generous friends for honoring her birthday by supporting Sit Stay Read.

It was her love of children that got us started on the therapy dog path and look where we are now. Because of one little dog, this year alone more than 500 at-risk kids will get reading help and meet some new canine pals.

To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed dogs can change the world."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Perfect Day

Shandy's Birthday Album
Shandy had an absolutely perfect day for her 16th birthday. Great weather, great food, and, of course, great friends. You can see pictures of all the fun in Shandy's Picasa album by clicking on the photo.

Many thanks to Shandy's wonderful friends for making her day so special!

We even had some surprise guests. Mary Pankonen's 16 year-old Kurt Russell was such a trooper to come brave the canine hoards. And I was so excited when two of our foster puppies and their families arrived to help Shandy celebrate! (Look for the "Puppy Album" on Picasa to see photos of them as tiny pups.)

This was a party I'll truly never forget. Thank you again to all Shandy's guests for memories we'll treasure forever.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shandy's Sweet 16!

Yes, unbelievable as it seems, our Shandy girl is turning 16.

Please help us celebrate and make it a special day for her this Saturday, Sept 12th (her actual birthday), from 1-3, in the park behind our place, 4900 N. Francisco (near Lawrence & California.)

Shandy loves her friends (two- and four-legged) and food so that's what we're having. Please join us for cake (for people and pups), fun, and a group photo. No gifts but feel free to pamper our girl with treats.

The event is listed on Facebook but, even if you can't access it, just come. She'll be so happy to see you and so will I!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dinner & a Movie--at the grocery store?

Ok, so it's not just any grocery store, but the new Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. Still, who'd expect dinner and John Travolta (they showed "Grease") in the parking garage?

Whole Foods is a great community partner (remember the delish food they provided for the Sit Stay Read anniversary party?) Now they're going even further by offering free entertainment.

The store has a ton of food stations with a huge variety to choose from (the blue cheese cole slaw was killer) and plenty of seating with river views--indoor or out.

As you can see, the views are great and, as an added bonus, just as the movie ended, the Navy Pier fireworks started. A fun time. Thanks, Whole Foods!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can you teach a love of reading?

There was an interesting juxtaposition of news stories this week.

First there was the sad NPR story about the PBS "Reading Rainbow" TV show ending after a 26 year run. Turns out the show, hosted by LeVar Burton all these years, was the victim of a funding crunch in education. Money is now going to programs that teach kids how to read, rather than to encourage them to love reading. Sorry LeVar, you'll be missed.

Fast forward to Sunday's NY Times and there's a front page article about middle school teachers who are part of a "Classroom Revolution" because they use reading workshops in class and let students choose the books they read--all in an effort to "help build a lifelong love of reading."

I found both stories so interesting because they underscore our belief at Sit Stay Read (and echoed by our program teachers) that the love of reading shown by our volunteers is as important to our students as the impact we have on their reading skills. Rather than "teach" a love of reading, we live it and the kids benefit. I love that!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Dog Video You Won't Want to Miss

Whatever your view of God, I don't think anyone can fault this artist for her sweet interpretation of her own personal view. Made my day. Thanks, Holly!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dog books, what do you think?

Julia Keller's article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune grabbed me with the title, "Why dog books are so fetching."

She reeled me in with the story of her beloved Ramsey but surprised me when she dissed a book I loved, "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Although, like Ms. Keller, I'm not a fan of dog narrators, I persevered with that book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I appreciated learning about "A Year of Cats and Dogs", and quickly added it to Shelfari, but Ms. Keller missed another favorite of mine, "Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog." What about you, do you have a favorite dog book to share?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Guest Bartender Night a BIG Hit

As you can see, the Sit Stay Read crowd had a great time at Lizard's Lounge on Friday night. The electioneering for our new Sit Stay Read bookmark models was fierce but the winners are. . . Slugger and Brady!!

Of course, the real winners are the third-graders at Sumner Academy--$1,006 was raised to bring the SSR program to their class. Woo hoo! Add to that, the generous matching grant from the Kaplan Foundation and that's a whopping $2,012!! Many thanks to our pro bartender, Ruth, our guest bartenders, Elana and Jenn, and all you voters!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drinks and a Matching Grant!

Let's get together and have some fun! Join us for Guest Bartender night THIS FRIDAY, Aug 21st, from 8-11pm at Lizard's Liquid Lounge, 3058 W. Irving Park Rd in Chicago!

We'll have Sit Stay Read volunteers, Elana Mendelson (pictured, showing her electioneering t-shirt) and Jenn Dohm, as our guest bartenders for the night. 100% of the tips they make will benefit the Sit Stay Read program at Sumner Academy and every dollar will go twice as far thanks to a matching grant! So be good to your bartenders :-)

PLUS, it's not too late to enter your dog in the competition to see who's canine cutie will be the next Sit Stay Read bookmark dog! Visit our website for all the details.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free Hotel Rooms Filling Fast

First, if you didn't read about free hotel rooms for Sit Stay Read volunteers in our E-newsletter, go to our website and sign-up to get our updates!

Second, we heard from Beth Finke that the free hotel rooms are booking up so she suggests picking a hotel and calling ASAP. Beth can't wait to enjoy her free night at the Blackstone! Check-out Give a Day, Get a Night now.

You'll need to volunteer 8 hours between now and December and get a letter from us to bring to the hotel. If you need more hours, Michele will be happy to get you in the office now for some fun projects and the school program schedule will be out in early September. Lots of opportunities to volunteer!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

World's Worst Reading Strategy

Really, it truly is the "World's Worst Reading Strategy".

C'mon, you know what it is, right? The dreaded round robin reading!

Dr. Lanse does a great job on his blog of explaining why it's such a scourge and how to avoid it. It was especially rewarding to read that he recommends the exact strategies we use in Sit Stay Read programs--guided reading, paired reading, and a favorite of mine, echo reading!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A New Young Reader

Couldn't resist sharing this photo of my great-niece, Maddy. She was visiting from Wisconsin and, at only nine months old, she already loves books. Wish we could start this early with the kids in our programs. What fun we'd all have!

Don't you love her top knot of curls? It reminds me of Pebbles.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Office Pups & Their People

New staff in the office means new pups as well. We're missing Jenn, Elizabeth, and Allison but are so happy to welcome Michele Brignoni, our new volunteer manager, and Kelsey Jones, communications coordinator, plus their pups.

Michele's girl, Prairie (on the left), is a doll and looks forward to her office visits. We can't wait for her to become a SSR dog!

Kelsey's Jack is a little sweetheart. A chihuahua Pomeranian mix who just turned a year old, I think he looks like a Mini Me of my Bandit. Click here for more photos and see if you don't agree.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What a Swell Party It Was!

Sugar's House Party
Sugar and all her canine pals had a fabulous time at the house party she hosted in support of Sit Stay Read. The dogs romped on the beach, people partied, and $3,300 was raised to help kids from Chicago's inner city learn to read! Click on the photo to see all the fun.

A huge thank you to Sugar and her people--Doug and Jim--for all their work to make the first Sit Stay Read house party a terrific success. You're the best!

BTW, if you missed Sugar on the the NBC Nightly News, be sure to check it out here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If Not Now, When?

”In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.”

--From Wangari Maathai's Nobel Lecture, delivered in Oslo, 10 December 2004.

World's Best Bookshops!

Here are the best bookshops in the world--according to this article from the Irish Independent.

I'd love to make it to every one of these! Have you been to any?

Many thanks to Norm Sloan for the link!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Go See Alice

Congrats to Alice Peacock and all our friends at Rock for Reading for the excellent article in today's Sun-Times.

Go see Alice at Schuba's!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On the Mound at Wrigley

Sit Stay Read on the Field at Wrigley
Hey, hey, Briana made the scoreboard at Wrigley!! How cool is that?! Check-out the pitching arm on that girl. Our thanks again to Build-A-Bear Workshop for this dream come true day! Click on the photo to see the complete album.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Briana Scores a Hit

Briana did an awesome job pitching at the Cubs game today! A great time was had by all.

I'll post more photos as they come in but here's Briana on the field at Wrigley with Bearemy. Many thanks to Build-A-Bear for a dream come true day!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Build-A-Bear Cubs Winners!

Congratulations to young Sachin Jain and his canine pal, Arthur, for showing their Cubs spirit and winning the drawing for Build-A-Bear tickets to Saturday's Chicago Cubs game for mom, Cathy!

Lowell second-grader, Briana Lopez (shown here with her proud teacher, Nora Garcia) was thrilled to receive a Cubs uniformed Build-A-Bear when Sit Stay Read visited her classroom today to announce that she'll be throwing out the first pitch at Saturday's Cubs game.

See more contest entries and pictures of Briana. And look for photos from the game soon!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Calling All Cubs Fans!

Everyone in the office was thrilled when our friends (and supporters) at Build-A-Bear Workshop offered Sit Stay Read the honor of having one of our students throw out the first pitch at a Cubs game!

We immediately thought of Ms. Garcia at Lowell School. She's a huge baseball fan so we were sure she'd know a student who loves the Cubs and deserves some special recognition. Sure enough, Ms. Garcia recommended 7-year-old Briana Lopez. What a lucky girl! In addition to loving the Cubs, Briana loves reading and is an excellent student.

Want to see brave Briana throw out the first pitch? Sit Stay Read has TWO extra tickets to the game and we want YOU to be there! Enter our contest to win BOTH tickets so you can be there to cheer on Briana.

The contest:
We want to see who the biggest Cubs fan is! Send us a photo of you, your kids or your dog (like George, pictured here) showing your Cubs spirit! Have some fun, show your Cubs support and you just might win TWO free tickets to the game on Saturday, May 30th at 3:10pm. The winner will also receive our new "Keep Reading" t-shirt to wear at the game to show support for Sit Stay Read and Briana!

To enter, email a jpg file of your most spirited picture to us at by 5pm on Tuesday, May 26th. The lucky winner will be announced Wednesday, May 27th. Good luck and have fun!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Busy Days

Wrapping-up the school programs and getting ready for the final visits for the year means a busy time in the Sit Stay Read office.

In addition to assembling all the Reading Fun Packs and sorting books, our intrepid staff and volunteers put together the mailing to all our supporters--personalizing, stuffing, labeling, stamping and sealing 1,800 letters!

Many thanks to (from bottom left) Sally, Wei, Kelsey, Elizabeth, Mary, Gail, and Jenn. As well as those not pictured: Barbara Braden, Bea Calcagno, Anita Dasgupta, Jan & Fred Glure, Lauren Krebs, Sarah Scott, Zaneta Zak, and everyone who wrote Post-It notes to let folks know of their commitment to Sit Stay Read. As we say so often, we truly couldn't do it without you!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Our New Bookkeeper

That's Jack, our new intern Kelsey's chihuahua-Pomeranian mix. Isn't he a charmer?

This was his first day in the office and he and Shandy were a lot of help sorting the books and getting the Fun Packs ready.

See more of Jack (and Shandy.)

Shandy's Doppelganger

They say we all have one and I think we've found Shandy's.

That's Barbara Braden's lovely Maggie and, of course, that's Shandy next to her (or below, depending on your display.) Two old gals with soulful eyes. Such a pair!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

For Brandon

And your nephew, niece, loved one. I know it's a commercial but the sentiment is wonderful. Stay safe.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Early Mother's Day Story

Just had to share this heartwarming video of motherly love at work. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Patti May for sending this along.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sit Stay Read Inspires Philly Program

Here's a great story about a new reading dog program in Philadelphia--inspired by Sit Stay Read!

Veterinarian Amy Brenner contacted us after seeing the story on the NBC Nightly News and I was so excited to learn that she decided to jump right in and get kids and dogs together for some reading fun (especially because my mom was from Philly!)

Thanks for the mention, Amy. We look forward to the day the Chicago curriculum will be available so you can offer the full Sit Stay Read experience. Until then, KEEP READING!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feel Good Video of the Day

Apparently this is dedicated to the memory of Maria. Very cool.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rock For Reading Truly Rocks

It's a busy time at the Sit Stay Read office as we start organizing for the big Reading Rewards Celebration in all our classrooms. That's right, the end of the school year will be here before you know it.

At the celebration, each of our 350 students gets to choose books of their very own to keep and one to give to a younger reader. That means we need a LOT of books.

We're so grateful to our friends at Rock For Reading for their donation of nearly 600 books! You ROCK!

Jenn and Allison had a blast sorting the books--and, as you can see, Shandy supervised.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bo Obama Joins Historic Presidential Dogs

Read all about it!

In her latest cartoon, Sit Stay Read board president MK Czerwiec welcomes Bo Obama--and offers a great look at past presidential dogs.

Thanks for the smiles, MK!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Have Some Photo Fun--and Share

That's Rocky, our Sit Stay Read Dog of the Year--we always knew he was a work of art!

Had a blast making these photos of some of our dogs. Try it yourself on this fun site! Send me your pix (not the racy ones, please) and I'll add them to the album.

Click on the photo to see the album.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Announcing Leo Jack Hanau

On April 1st (no fooling) Sit Stay Read board member Seth Hanau and his wife, Jen, welcomed Leo Jack into the world.

As you can see, he's a handsome fellow and settling in nicely with the canine members of the family. That's Kibbles (one of Tibbie's siblings) getting a closer look at baby Leo.

Congratulations Seth and Jen! We can't wait to meet Leo Jack.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stand By Me

I was moved to tears by this video. Not only by the beauty of the music but by the faces of all these folks playing "together". Just like Matt dancing with people all around the world, it truly brings home the truth that people are the same wherever you go and we're all in this together. Let's remember to keep singing and dancing (and reading!) together.

Thanks to Holly Schneider for the link. You made my day.

Playing For Change | Song Around The World "Stand By Me" from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Survive the Recession--Advice from Ben Stein

Ben Stein with some heartfelt advice--get a dog to survive the recession. Many thanks to Montana Hayes for the link.

Eco Dog Helps Bees

Did you know dogs are working to help save bees from Colony Collapse Disorder? Klinker, a Labrador retriever, is trained to sniff out bacteria that causes disease in hives. How great is that?

Bees may not be man's best friend but, as one expert puts it, "If it were not for the honeybees, there would not be enough food on Planet Earth to support life as we know it."

See Klinker in action.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lulu--Another Dog Rescuer

James, a student in the Sit Stay Read program at Schiller School near Cabrini-Green, knows dogs can be heroes--especially his reading buddy, Lulu. (Click on the story to enlarge.)