Friday, December 17, 2010

SSR Holiday Cookie Walk!

What a BLAST we all had at our first annual Holiday Cookie Walk event! With yummy treats and great company, we all lost track of time and chit-chatted all morning long. Thank you to Anita, Jean, Bonnie, Nora, Kara, and Nancy for celebrating the holidays with us and making it such a fun day in the office!

There was a wonderful assortment of cookies that were exchanged, and boy were they delish! To put the icing on top of the cake (literally), Kelsey brought in snowmen cake pops for everyone to decorate and take home. For those who are unsure of what a cake pop is, in plainest terms, it is cake on a stick! Mixed with frosting and molded to whatever shape you wish, cake pops are a HUGE hit and we had such a fun time decorating our very own snowmen cake pops.

Check out all the fun here, and thanks again to all the volunteers who came to celebrate with us! If you couldn't make it this year, there's always next year. Best wishes to all for a joyful holiday and a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Midwest Bank Rocks!

Manierre Student Authors
The final fall dog visit to Manierre School was such fun! Not only did each student receive their very own self-authored book, but Ms. Ernetta Roper from First Midwest Bank was on hand to make the day even more special.

As a member of the First Midwest Charitable Foundation board, Ms. Roper presented SitStayRead with a grant check for $5,000! That goes a long way towards making the program at Manierre possible.

Ms. Roper, daughter of a school teacher herself, spent the entire hour in Ms. Oceguera's classroom listening to student's read her their stories and helping them edit--doing her mother proud!

Many thanks to First Midwest for their commitment to children's literacy! Be sure to click on the photo to see lots more pictures of the kids and dogs at Manierre.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Celebrity Sighting!

That's award-winning actress Rondi Reed with SitStayRead dog Milo at Saturday's CARE Faire!

Sarah Scott reports that Ms. Reed was quite taken with the idea of kids reading to dogs and would like to get involved. Woo hoo!

Can you imagine Rondi Reed as a guest reader in a SitStayRead classroom? We can! Very exciting. Actors read the book Broadway Barks, by Bernadette Peters to a class of 2nd graders and talk about why reading is important in their profession, as well as to them personally. No telling how many kids might be inspired to become actors!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye to an Old Friend

That's author Beth Finke and her seeing-eye dog, Hanni, during a guest reader visit to Mr. Groves' class at Faraday last year.

It's hard to believe that it's been three years since I met Beth and the fabulous Hanni at a Barnes and Noble book signing. And even harder to believe that Hanni is now retired. We're so grateful to Beth for sharing Hanni with the SitStayRead students and we wish her lots of fun times and good belly rubs during her retirement.

You can read more about Hanni's latest life phase on Beth's blog post. And we'll be sure to keep you posted on the new canine partner in Beth's life. Wishing all the best to Hanni, Beth, and the new addition.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Of course food is a big part of the reason--turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie. YUM! But I also like the reminder to be thankful.

Today I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with the wonderful SitStayRead students, volunteers and dogs.

Usually I'm in the office, but last week Bandit and I were last minute subs at Lowell School and got to read with Leonardo (seen here) and his classmates in Ms. Cavallery's room. As you can tell from that big smile, we had a great time.

Then today I helped out at Hendricks Academy--our very first SSR school. I always love going back there and it was a joy to see the excitement of the kids as they read with the dogs and volunteers. There was a substitute teacher today and she went out of her way to tell us how impressed she was with the session saying, "You really keep the kids engaged."

Many thanks to everyone who makes SSR possible. I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Everyday Miracles

It's been an exciting week as the SitStayRead volunteers head back into the classrooms! We're in 7 schools (soon to be 8) and class sizes are as large as 32 students. Despite the close quarters, everyone makes room and has a great time reading and writing.

Allison Jasinski, (shown here with a student from last year's program) had a wonderful surprise today at the dog safety presentation at Near North Elementary. When it was time for the students to practice approaching a dog safely the classroom teacher let Allison know that one of the students is non-verbal in social situations so probably wouldn't be able to ask permission to pet the dog. To everyone's surprise the young girl walked right up to the dog team and with perfect articulation asked, "May I pet your dog?" She then sat down next to Brady and chatted about his soft fur, smiling from ear to ear as she gently pet her new friend.

We can't wait to hear about the progress she makes when reading to the dogs next week. An everyday miracle indeed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Logo Debut!

We are so excited to announce the debut of our new logo!

After an intensive review of SitStayRead's communications this year by a team of doctoral candidates from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), it was determined that a new logo was needed to clearly illustrate our commitment to childhood literacy.

We think this simple silhouette of a child reading to a dog evokes our core mission and the clean lines give SitStayRead a refreshed look. What do you think?

Visit our online store to shop for tote bags, tees, and other fun items sporting the new logo!

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Why I Give" by Elana Mendelson

We love hearing stories from volunteers about the programs, the kids, and fun events, but Elana wanted to tell us about why she gives to SitStayRead. Elana is a friend, volunteer, and dedicated board member. You're a rock star Elana, and we're lucky to have your support!

Elana tells us, "Why I Give..."
"I was raised to believe that no matter how much or how little you have, there is always an opportunity to give back. I began giving my time as a Dog Team and fell in love with the SitStayRead program. Seeing firsthand what the children got from reading to my pug Slugger was a powerful experience.

After spending some time in the program, I realized that any financial commitment no matter how big or small could help. This past summer I made a pledge of $1,000 to be taken monthly out of my checking account. Even though I don't make a lot of money, I realized that there are children out there who need help developing the basic skills necessary for success and my support would make a difference.

SitStayRead has developed a successful program with proven results. You only need to step into a classroom once to see the powerful impact. That's why I give."

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Best P.S.

Don't you love it when one little thing turns your head around and suddenly you see everything clearly?

Arrived home from a SitStayRead board meeting at 10 tonight and, though it was a wonderfully productive, engaging meeting with people I adore, I was wiped out. As I dragged myself through the chores of getting ready for some sleep, I checked my email. What a treat awaited me.

An email from one of our teachers about the details of finalizing a school program (and there are a LOT of details in getting the programs started) included a P.S. that put everything in perspective and made my whole week. Here it is:

"P.S. My students were asking about SitStayRead on the first day of school. :-)"

Thank you, Ms. Nolin. Please tell your students we can't wait to see them again!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bears Care Helps Kids Learn to Read!

What a great weekend! Last Saturday, winning volunteers and teachers watched the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field. What could be even better than winning tickets to the Bears game? Being ON the field!

SitStayRead co-founders, Sarah Murphy and MaryEllen Schneider, were presented a GIANT CHECK by Caroline Schrenker (left) and Marge Hamm (right) on the field before Saturday's kickoff. Many thanks to Bears Care for awarding SitStayRead this generous grant of $25,000! Just think how many kids will learn to read with the HUGE SUPPORT from Bears Care. That's a touchdown win in our book!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bears Winners

We're happy to report the winners of the tickets to Saturday's Chicago Bears game are:
David Groves, teacher
Carly Loosevelt, volunteer

And we're even happier to announce that our great friends at Bears Care donated additional tickets so we have additional winners--YEAH!!

Also receiving tickets are:
Betsy Lane, volunteer
Joe Pryst, volunteer
Beth Finke, volunteer Guest Reader (along with her seeing eye dog, Hanni--be sure to check-out their blog)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Why I Give" by Mimi Manzler

We truly appreciate all our rockstar supporters, like volunteer Mimi Manzler! As an experienced book buddy, program leader, event volunteer, and donor, Mimi tells us, "Why I Give."

"When we came to Chicago, I wanted to get involved in something and literally stumbled across Sit Stay Read. Using Volunteer Match, I entered three interests: kids, literacy & animals and up popped Sit Stay Read. I could not believe it – what could be better – kids, books & dogs!?! This is MADE for me, and that is how it all began.

Even before that though, I have always been a reader, from when I first read aloud Green Eggs & Ham to being inspired as a kid by From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler & The Phantom Tollboth. And, I have always had a strong sense that reading (& writing) is power – if you can read & think critically, and you can express yourself eloquently, what more do you need? These are the keys to success in my book.

I enjoy being with the kids and dogs, but it’s truly moments like the other day when I stood with two book buddies & two dog teams outside of Marshall’s Place. Some students from Manierre School were walking by and one young boy asked, “Excuse me, are those Sit Stay Read dogs?” He then proceeded to tell us about his experience with Sit Stay Read and how much he enjoyed reading with the dogs.

Reading with the kids is just plain FUN—it’s something that anyone would love to support! "

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shandy Girl

It is with a very sad heart that I tell you our beloved Shandy girl is gone. We were so lucky to have her for almost 17 years but that didn't make it any easier to say good bye on Friday.

This photo of Shandy on her way to school for a Sit Stay Read program is how I remember her best--happy in knowing she's going to see kids.

We'll post a tribute as soon as we're able but, for now this eloquent post by Johanna Humbert comforts and inspires. Many thanks for your kind words, Johanna.

PS Here's Shandy's video tribute by Kelsey.

Monday, June 28, 2010

E-Chievement Award--What an Honor!

A big thank you to E-town radio for honoring the work of Sit Stay Read with the prestigious E-Chievement Award. Listeners from around the country send in nominations and we were chosen!

Here's Shandy posing with the award and modeling her snazzy E-town bandanna.

Grammy winner Jakob Dylan was the featured musical guest on the radio show as well--how cool is that? Click here to listen to the interview online.

This is a very special recognition for Sit Stay Read and the wonderful kids the program serves. Many thanks to our fabulous supporters and volunteers for making it all possible!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Our Volunteers Know How to Party!

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration 2010
Sit Stay Read's annual Volunteer Appreciation Party was a ton of fun! Held last Tuesday at Mrs. Murphy's and Sons Irish Bistro, everyone had a great time.

Honoring the hard work of all our fabulous volunteers was the focus of the evening. Among the highlight's was the announcement of Jennifer Cristina as 2010 Volunteer of the Year and a special presentation to our longest serving dog team. Click on the photo to see our special honorees and more action shots by our volunteer photographer, Bill Shomaker.

Many thanks to everyone for making 2009-10 a great year of reading fun!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fun Packs Instead of Summer School?

An article in yesterday's Sun-Times, "Are books just as good as summer school?", stopped me in my tracks. As if these smiling faces from one of our Reading Rewards celebrations aren't proof enough, there's new research that shows the importance of children having books to read over the long summer vacation.

By sixth grade the "summer slide" in academics accounts for as much as 80% of the achievement gap for low-income students. But not for our Sit Stay Read students--they have Summer Reading Fun Packs to keep them reading and writing all summer long!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reading Rewards Underway!

The Reading Rewards celebrations are underway and, as you can see, the kids are soooo thrilled!!!

We're still up to our eyeballs here in the Sit Stay Read office wrapping-up the school year but you can count on seeing more photos of the on-going RR celebration excitement soon.

New this year, were surprise special guests at the celebrations. Here's a photo of our Hendricks Academy top reader, Rayshawn (62 books read!) with George McCaskey, one of the owners of the Chicago Bears (and a great SSR supporter through Bears Care), and fire fighter Joe Pryst.

Many thanks to everyone who makes these celebrations possible--our generous donors, fabulous volunteers (two- and four-legged), and special guests. As teacher David Groves put it, “Sit Stay Read is so exciting for the kids and sends a powerful message that the community is excited about their accomplishments and is invested in their continued academic success!”

It's not too late to lend a hand--please donate today!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Dream Comes True

You may have heard me say that a dream of mine is to have our SSR kids come back to us to volunteer. Well, while I truly believed that would happen one day, I never imagined it would be so soon (kids today are so advanced!)

Meet Carly, age 6, reading to Shandy in our very first program at Sulzer Library in 2003. Seems Carly never forgot her friends at SSR so when she needed a service project for school, she told her mom she'd like to help SSR.

After a visit to the office last week with her mom and her sister Sheila (also in our first program) to learn about volunteering, Carly signed-up to help out in the office after school on Wednesdays. How cool is that?

But wait, there's more. There's also Ariana, a new friend of SSR. For Ariana's 7th birthday she asked friends and family to donate to SSR in lieu of gifts (see Ariana's tribute page.) She decorated a pail to collect the donations and asked her mom if she could bring her pail to the office and, maybe get to meet one of the SSR dogs.

Perhaps you can see where this is going--when Ariana came to the office she not only met Shandy, the original SSR dog, but Carly helped her read to Shandy! We were bursting with joy at seeing the girls together. Check-out the photos here and let us know what you think of these great kids!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Joan Baez & Sit Stay Read

Many thanks to Sit Stay Read supporter Brian Gregory for nominating us for our very first award! And not just any award, but the same one that Joan Baez received just two weeks ago in recognition of her music and activism.

The e-chievement award is presented by the national radio show etown to recognize "people around the country who've found positive solutions to challenges in their communities."

SSR will be honored with the award at the live show in Boulder, CO this Sunday. The show is taped and will air on WDCB 90.9FM in Chicago at 9pm on a Friday in a few weeks. We'll keep you posted on the exact air date for our show--which also features Jakob Dylan (son of Bob.) Very exciting!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bandit & Jack Learn a Trick

One of the many great things about taking your dog to work is that you have more opportunities for training. Lucky us, Jack and Bandit love to learn!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Surprise from Ms. Schmidt's Class!

This week we received a delightful surprise from Ms. Schmidt's 2nd graders at Lowell Elementary. The students loved Sit Stay Read SO much that they each wrote their own story about their favorite memory with the dogs and volunteers.

Ms. Schmidt was kind enough to bind the heartfelt stories into a book for Sit Stay Read to keep. What a special treat to have these wonderful stories in the office! Take a look through a few of our personal favorites from the kids. The illustrations are fantastic, too!

Thank you Ms. Schmidt and all of the students for putting a big smile on our faces!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Ultimate Book Store?

Wow! Now that's a book store I could get lost in for hours (even though I couldn't read most of the books.)

Be sure to check-out this photo from National Geographic's current issue. Gorgeous!

Thanks for the link, Norm.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Visit From Our New Addition

That's the beautiful Evelyn Gaffney sleeping through her first visit to the Sit Stay Read office last Friday. Could she be any more precious? At four weeks she's a petite 7lbs and has the sweetest smile ever--but is too quick for the camera.

The board made a special request for an Evelyn appearance at last night's meeting and, of course, she was a hit. Seth lulled her to sleep and lamented the fact that son Leo is growing fast--his first birthday is almost here. Time for another visit to SSR, Seth!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dogs Play By 4 Rules

If you've ever watched dogs at play, I'm sure you'll recognize the Dog Rules listed in this very interesting Scientific American Mind article by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce.

Here's Bandit teaching our foster pups how to play fair. They're all grown-up now but that's Cowboy and Ripley bowing to Bandit. Tip's in the back waiting for an opportunity to jump in.

Can you guess the 4 rules of ethical dogs? Check-out the article.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And the Winner is. . .

Sadie the Scottie may have completed the triple crown in dog shows by winning the Best in Show title at Westminster tonight but the REAL WINNER was Sit Stay Read’s 2010 Dog of the Year, LUCY SHOMAKER, an Italian Spinone!

The bidding was fierce but SSR volunteer, Barbara Shomaker, won the coveted title for her beloved Lucy by outbidding the other contenders. Yes, this is a title you buy, but the proceeds benefit a good cause and keep kids reading so we’re okay with that.

Many thanks to all 120 guests who made Sit Stay Read’s Best In Show event a huge success tonight. We had guests who walked from home to Fat Cat, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, and others who flew in from Florida and New York just for the event. Whatever mode of transport brought you to Best In Show, we greatly appreciate you for being there!

Friday, February 12, 2010

These Kids Get an "A" for Awesome!

Many thanks to Jen for pointing us to this great video. Beyonce's got nothing on these Scholar Ladies. Their smiling faces are sure to make your day!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Welcome to the World Baby Evelyn!

We are thrilled to announce a new addition to the Sit Stay Read family!

Tara and Cory Gaffney are proud parents of the gorgeous Miss Evelyn. Born on Tuesday, Feb 2nd, Evelyn weighed in at 7lbs 3oz and 20.5 inches long.

Best of all, everyone is happy, healthy, and doing well! Congratulations Tara and Cory--we can't wait to meet Evelyn!

For a short time you can view more photos of Evelyn at Bella Baby, enter password 0202evelyngaffney. I can't stop watching the slideshow--she brings a smile everytime.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kids Need Play to Learn

"Playing to Learn", an article by Susan Engel in the NY Times, does a great job showing how schools could be exciting environments for true learning for children. I can't do it justice here but so many of her points are exactly what happens in a Sit Stay Read program. I hope you'll read the article but here's a favorite part of mine:

"Research has shown unequivocally that children learn best when they are interested in the material or activity they are learning. Play — from building contraptions to enacting stories to inventing games (I'd add: "to reading to dogs")— can allow children to satisfy their curiosity about the things that interest them in their own way. It can also help them acquire higher-order thinking skills, like generating testable hypotheses, imagining situations from someone else’s perspective and thinking of alternate solutions.

A classroom like this would provide lots of time for children to learn to collaborate with one another, a skill easily as important as math or reading. It takes time and guidance to learn how to get along, to listen to one another and to cooperate. These skills cannot be picked up casually at the corners of the day."

I'm sure all you SSR program volunteers will agree that working together in small groups and taking turns to go read to the dog teams helps our kids learn to collaborate--as does brainstorming for their stories.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Remembering Tibbie

It is with a very heavy heart that I report that our dear Sit Stay Read dog, Tibbie, left this world today. He was in liver failure and his family made the difficult decision to let him go. Seth tells us, "He went peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. . .we should all be so lucky."

Tibbie was always a favorite with the kids--one look at that face and you can see why(click on photo to see more.) Only last week he and Seth were part of the team in Ms. Nolin's classroom helping more kids learn to love reading. Kennell, a second-grader dedicated his book to Tibbie: "I dedicate this book to Jerry and Tibbie because Tibbie is a loving dog and I take care of him."

Thank you Seth for sharing Tibbie with so many. We are forever grateful for having you both as a Sit Stay Read team.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crain's Features Sit Stay Read!

Since the very beginning it's been a goal of ours to have Sit Stay Read in the estimable Crain's Chicago Business and today was the day!!

Not only did they mention our impressive evaluation results, they illustrated the story with this great photo of Demarlon reading to Nancy and Brady.

Be sure to check-out the full article online and share it with everyone!

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Wrigley Will Always Help Me"

From Student Stories

Because Sit Stay Read programs are so much fun, it can be easy to forget the impact the dogs and volunteers have on our fabulous kids. Reading fluency scores are certainly improved but there's also the personal impact.

When Stella, Brady and Bandit visited Mr. Groves' 3rd grade classroom last week, the students wrote about them in their stories, but many of the kids chose to write about the SSR dogs they remember from last year in 2nd grade--Wrigley, Rocky and Blue.

In addition to Dajanae's story about Wrigley (the title of this post), Tyshawn wrote about "The Adventures of the Mighty Rocky" and Katrina's story told how "I Saved Blue". The dogs become a part of the students' lives and they enjoy remembering the time they spent reading together.

Click on the link under the photo to read these and other stories from our young authors.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

SSR on "Making a Difference Radio"!

How did Sit Stay Read get started? Click here to listen to Barbara Talisman interview Sit Stay Read executive director and co-founder MaryEllen Schneider on blog radio and find out!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Get a Disney Day When You Volunteer!

As seen on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and all over TV tonight, register for "Give A Day Get A Disney Day" and you get a free pass for a Disney park when you volunteer a day with Sit Stay Read!!

Our Best In Show benefit is coming up and we'll need lots of help--lend a hand and get rewarded by our friends at Disney!