For this month’s Philanthropic Friday, we bring you SitStayRead, a nonprofit organization that places dogs in the classroom to help with Chicago’s literacy rates.


SitStayRead (SSR) began 15 years ago as a small child outreach program based out of a Chicago-based dog training school. Today, SSR has grown to provide year-round programs for low-income students in first through third grades in 17 different Chicago public schools. Each grade’s curriculum is designed to support key literacy skills at that specific level.

And there is certainly a need for programs like these. Take a look at these recent literacy statistics:

54% of Chicago’s public school students do not meet or exceed reading standards.
• Only 3 in 10 students entering 4th grade are proficient readers.
• Low income 1st graders are only read to for 25 hours on average. In contrast, their peers get 1,000 hours of one-on-one reading.

To assess the program’s success, SitStayRead partnered with the Department of School Psychology at Loyola University Chicago to create an evaluation tool that measured student achievement in reading fluency and comprehension. The evaluation also included components of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and a survey measuring attitude towards reading and learning. The study found that students in SitStayRead developed fluency at a rate 47.8% greater than their non-participating peers.


The Curriculum
The SSR Curriculum is designed by the organization’s Program Advisory Committee, which includes SitStayRead staff, volunteers, teachers, and faculty from the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Literacy, University of Chicago, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and is built using Common Core standards. Each program uses dog-themed books and materials and incorporates different reading and writing skills.

The Little Buddies (1st Grade) program focuses on big picture literacy skills like character identification, sequencing, and listening comprehension. The program also introduces students to the concept of having dogs in the classroom and has a special focus on social emotional learning. Each class engages in a read aloud and group discussion followed by visits with SSR’s Dog Team during a creative writing and drawing activity.

The Tail Blazers (2nd Grade) program focuses on increasing fluency and comprehension skills using several different reading styles. With the goal of increasing reading fluency, Book Buddies lead fluency activities and brainstorming sessions and then support students with independent creative story writing. Students each get to spend reading time with Dog Teams.

The Poetry Pals (3rd Grade) program focuses on comprehension skills and written expression. This program allows students to read and write poetry about dogs and also spend time with Dog Teams. Each visit includes reading activities, comprehension discussions, and independent poetry writing.

Volunteer, Get Involved
If you are interested in being a part of SitStayRead, the organization is always looking for volunteers with and without dogs who can participate in reading programs. For volunteer opportunities, please apply here.

Beyond volunteering, the group hosts several fundraisers throughout the year. Their largest event, Bark ‘n Ball, is SSR’s largest, dog-friendly event of the year and is packed with a live & silent auction, raffle, Deck of Cards game, mystery wine grab, photo booth, open bar, food buffets for humans and dogs, dancing, and an all-around great time.

Not only is the Bark ‘n Ball a must-attend event, but Chicago Pet Sitters will be on hand to take all guest pups out for a quick potty break while parents are mingling. If you’re interested in attending this event, you can pick up your tickets here.

Bark ‘n Ball Details
WHEN: Friday, April 27, 2018 6:30pm
WHERE: Galleria Marchetti, 825 West Erie Street Chicago, IL, 60642

We hope to see you there!

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