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2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Sit Stay Read Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Literacy, Remedial Reading & Encouragement

Mission: SitStayRead’s mission is to advance children’s literacy skills using an engaging curriculum, dedicated volunteers and certified dogs. Founded in 2003, SitStayRead brings teams of trained volunteers and Certified Reading Assistance Dogs into many Chicago Public Schools in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. SitStayRead serves Kindergarten - third-grade students with an innovative and engaging curriculum that uses the human-animal bond to make reading and writing fun, safe and confidence-building. SitStayRead is the leading literacy organization in the United States to use dogs as a tool to improve reading in grades one through four. Dogs enable SitStayRead to tackle the serious issue of childhood illiteracy in a fun way, and test scores prove that our programs improve reading fluency.

Results: From its founding in 2003 with just three volunteers, SitStayRead has grown to more than 150 volunteers and 70 Certified Reading Assistance Dogs, and serves more than 2,000 Kindergarten-3rd grade low-income students annually.

Target demographics: struggling readers and writers increase their literacy skills and deepen their love of reading and writing!

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 2,000 students in K-3

Geographic areas served: Chicago

Programs: SitStayRead, at no cost, to low-income schools all over Chicago.

Community Stories

27 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SitStayRead is an incredible organization, bringing reading assistance dogs into schools to engage students and increase their literacy skills. Beyond the dogs, their curricula are robust and have been proven effective by independent studies. As a volunteer, I've seen firsthand how impactful this program is. The students learn so much and are so engaged. The staff is great and the programs are well run!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For almost eight years, I have volunteered with SitStayRead, helping with fundraising, classroom programs and office duties. I first heard of SitStayRead through my aunt who was a 3rd grade teacher at a SitStayRead partner school. She was so passionate about SitStayRead - she experienced firsthand the difference the program made for her eager but struggling students. Once I started volunteering, I too saw the impact that SitStayRead could have in children’s lives. It’s incredibly powerful to see a struggling reader make strides in their fluency and comprehension because they feel safe reading to a dog - dogs don’t make fun of you if you stumble, and earning the chance to read with a dog is a strong motivator. The facts that SitStayRead is able to document real improvement in fluency and comprehension and that they serve some of the most under-served students in Chicago compel me to keep volunteering. I know that I'm helping this organization change lives, one child, one book, one dog at a time!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sit Stay Read in Chicago makes reading, learning fun by bringing dogs and human book buddies into 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade classrooms. The kids love the dogs and even kids who don't participate in reading and writing at first almost always open up with a little "help" from a dog. Sit Stay Read is an innovative, stimulating, effective way to boost learning in children in lower-income areas. I've done other tutoring programs and really enjoy and feel like I'm accomplishing something with this program. Everyone gets excited when Sit Stay Read comes to school.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The kids are always so excited when Sit Stay Read comes to their classrooms with dogs. Some who don't join in reading when with a Book Buddy like me open up and start reading when they visit the dogs. I can see the positive effects every time I take part. Sit Stay Read is innovative, rewarding, stimulating, fun.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sit Stay Read has been improving reading and writing skills in CPS for over a decade with the perfect formula for success - pair kids, dogs, caring volunteers, and reading to make a fun and exciting experience for everyone. I am proud to have participated in so many aspects of the program as a Program Leader, Book Buddy, Dog Team, School Coordinator working in Little Buddies, Tail Blazers, and Keep Reading Celebrations; on the production end binding books; fundraisers; and public relations at community events. Getting involved is so rewarding because SSR targets those most in need, supports public education, and most of all, IT WORKS! The kids love reading. They love the dogs. They love the volunteers. They want to be in school and be a part of SSR each week. You can't hope for more.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great organization! I've been volunteering for about two years, and I think what these folks do is amazing! They really have a great mission and a great love for those students.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just started volunteering for this organization and absolutely love it! It's so great to see the kids confidently read to the dogs aloud.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Learning to read, enjoying reading and having confidence reading is the foundation for success in school. Sit Stay Read does an amazing job helping children develop reading skills with enthusiasm, encouragement and personal attention, from both human and dog volunteers! The nonprofit is well run and staffed by people devoted to the mission. It was an honor to volunteer with this group, be witness to and participate in the process of helping children develop reading skills.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My dog Lucy and I have volunteered for SitStayRead (SSR) for 10 years and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience in so many ways. First, it was clear to me from the beginning that SSR makes an enormous difference in kids lives -- the dogs help make reading and writing stories an enjoyable v. a daunting experience - which will serve them so well as they continue to grow and learn. Also, these children, who often live in places where dogs are to be feared, learn that dogs can be gentle and affectionate and deserve kindness and respect in return. The program also teaches them how to approach dogs they don't know in a safe way. On personal level, it has been a joy to participate with my dog in such an exceptional program. The staff at SSR make volunteering very rewarding. They are well organized and ensure that volunteers have the support, education and materials needed to be successful in the classroom and to feel that their time has been well spent. And most important, SSR produces results. In every classroom, I have seen seen children grow more confident and more competent in their reading and writing.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering with the dedicated folks at SitStayRead is always an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Whether working in a program, helping to prep materials, or organize their office, It is always apparent to me that their wonderful employees—in addition to the kindness and courtesy with which they consistently regard one another and their volunteers—care deeply about literacy, have a very special rapport with animals, and are 100% personally invested in serving their community. There is truly no downside to helping kids cultivate a love of reading (and animals!) under the patient and intelligent guidance of these amazing and generous individuals!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SitStayRead is an important part of my life. I have volunteered for 9 years -- first as a dog team with my sister's dog Charley and now as a book buddy. The kids and teachers -- and SitStayRead staff members -- are great. The curriculum is evaluated regularly and shows that the kids are actually improving their reading skills with help from the dogs. Woof!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with this great organization for over 5 years with with two different dogs. It is always a positive experience seeing the students engage with the dogs and improve their literacy skills throughout the eight-week program. I have volunteered with a number of literacy nonprofits in Chicago and Sit Stay Read has the most innovative and interactive curriculum. The excitement the students have when the dogs enter the classroom is palpable. I look forward to many more years of volunteering with Sit Stay Read!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just completed my first year of volunteering as a Book Buddy with Sit Stay Read. I had no idea what an impact it would have on me personally. It is such a joy to work with the students each week. Their excitement when Sit Stay Read enters the classroom is so contagious! Helping kids build their confidence in reading and writing is incredibly rewarding. Every member of the Sit Stay Read organization that I've been in contact with is passionate, driven and organized. I look forward to volunteering for many more years with this wonderful nonprofit!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with Sit,Stay, Read for over 8 years and they just keep getting better! The entire staff is committed to helping at risk students with their literacy skills and their passion is unmatched! They are a very well run and organized non-profit and you can see the difference they make when the students look forward to the SSR visits at school. They also do a great job of certifying the dogs for training. They are vigilant in making sure that the dog will be a good fit for a school/social situation. My pup loves going to the classroom and delights in the students reading to her. If I could give Sit,Stay READ a 6th star ******I would!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A friend of mine is on the board of this charity and he kept nudging and nudging me to get involved. I'm so glad he persisted! The transformation you see in the children week on week is incredible and it's such fulfilling work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteer with Sit Stay Read. It has been great seeing kids get excited about reading and interacting with the dogs. The dogs seem to loosen up the kids and get them excited and focused on reading. The staff has been very organized, responsive, and efficient. Training was very organized. A class organization that is having a great positive impact on kid's lives in a fun way.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with my dog Bandit ( border collie/cocker spaniel mix) since he was 1 year old. He is now 8. We are a dog team. He loves to lick the kids and the kids give him big hugs back during the reading & writing sessions!
This program gets the children very excited to read as dogs bring a high level of fun to the classroom. It makes learning fun. I love the stories they write about dogs, their family & friends. It's very heart warming. The last day of the program brings a new level of excitement as the children are presented their books that includes stories they have written over the 6- 7 week program. The cover of the book includes pictures of the dogs that were in their program. There are usually 3 dogs for the program. Sit Stay Read is a great program!! The people who work for or volunteer for Sit Stay Read are also a awesome group of people!!!! Here is picture of Bandit with my sister patty at the annual fund raiser "BarknBall!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered with SSR for almost two years and it has been a wonderful experience. The staff is awesome - professional, organized and fun. And they are so appreciative! The program is amazing: I have witnessed real growth and progress in reading and writing skills of the students, along with improved confidence levels. SSR makes a positive difference in the lives of our kids!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What a together organization, so impressive! I've done volunteer work for many years and Sit, Stay, Read has the right formula for training their volunteers to be most effective in the classroom. While bringing dogs to school to teach reading is a newer idea, this is exactly the innovation needed to break the barrier and engage children to develop a love and confidence in reading. SSR has the numbers and science to prove it works. The formula is smart leadership, proven courses & teaching techniques. Add program directors who teach not only the students but volunteer's and top it off with a caring and fostering environment & staff. This program is a winner!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I first moved to the Chicago area and wished to get involved in my new city I googled
“volunteer with my dog”. Sit Stay Read popped up and I was intrigued enough by the title that I opened the link. Literacy and dogs are my passion but I never thought I could combine the two through volunteering. I liked what I read about the program; helping to improve literacy skills and foster a love of learning in low-income classrooms with the use of dogs and mentors…..I was hooked! The staff at SSR work hard to train volunteers and then to support them once they are in the classroom. After my training I entered the classroom and was immediately infected by the enthusiasm that the kids exuded and again, I was hooked. What a joy to work with kids who are eager to show off their literacy skills to both humans and dogs! How proud they were to share the stories that they authored with us, too!
I’ve witnessed growth in the kids in both academic and social skills throughout each semester and I believe this program is responsible for that development. I couldn’t ask for more professional and caring staff and volunteers to work with and I’m honored to be apart of this organization.

2 auntieb71

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was looking for an organization where I could team up with my dog Hydrox, and give back to the community. I adopted Hydrox from PAWS Chicago - and quickly realized he was such a special doggie. I started to strategize how I could share him with others. I couldn't keep him to myself. After several obedience classes, and passing the Canine Good Citizen test with AKC - I felt he was ready to take the next step.

I'm an avid reader, and the thought of helping kids become more comfortable with their reading skills really appealed to me. The added bonus was being able to do this with my best friend, Hydrox.

Everyone at SSR has been so wonderful to work with from the orientation, Dog test and throughout our interactions from signing up for sessions and taking direction/working alongside them in classrooms.

The volunteering Hydrox and I do couldn't be more rewarding. In this day and age, it's quite an honor to step into a classroom where you sit with your dog and interact with kids and that's all you focus on. It's you, your dog, and the children. To witness the connection, is quite emotional. I get so much joy out of it.

Thanks so much for letting Hydrox and I be volunteers in your organization SSR.

Much appreciation,
Barb Bammer

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is my second year as a SitStayRead volunteer. I have volunteered as a book buddy and with my dog as a dog team. Both experiences have been amazing. All of the staff and other volunteers I have met are warm/friendly, and excited about the program. It's been a really uplifting experience.
The program itself (curriculum) is also amazing. I have never seen a class full of kids so quiet and enraptured by anything - let alone someone reading to them. I have personally seen kids who started out the 1st grade program being unable to read or write a full sentence - by the end they are understanding how to write a paragraph.
If you are looking for a truly rewarding opportunity - one you will walk away from each session with a smile and sense of real accomplishment - then SitStayRead is for you.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Sit Stay Read for over 7 years. The organization is extremely well run- I am always told exactly when I am needed, given clear directions as to location, and full information about what will happen when I get there. The training program is extensive yet time sensitive. Most importantly the program is based on solid empirical evidence that it works- reading scores improve markedly after Sit Stay Read is in the classroom. Plus it is a lot of fun!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I heard about Sit Stay Read at an involvement fair and the booth immediately caught my attention. With the pictures of children and dogs (both of what I love) and the outgoing staff member, I could not pass it up. SSR is a literacy program for children that is unique from other programs because they work with dogs! I always get surprised reactions when I tell people about this program because who has ever heard of such an amazing thing?! It really is a fun experience. I am a Book Buddy at one of the schools and you cannot help but feel the students’ energy when you walk into the classroom. It’s contagious! The students we work with are intelligent and love to read. SSR really does make reading fun and the volunteers are so anxious to help make this process possible. There are also a lot of special event and community events that are fun for the volunteers, as well as the dogs.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Sit Stay Read as a volunteer, board member, and donor for six years. In each of these roles I have personally witnessed Sit Stay Read excel. Sit Stay Read constantly uses donations carefully, serves the population to the best of its ability, and seeks constant improvement in all aspects of the organization.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with SSR for a couple of years now. It has been a great experience for me and my dog! One thing that has really impressed about SSR is that they are extremely focused on the cause and continuously monitor the results of the classrooms they visit. Students with the SSR program always increase the number of words they read per minute compared to classrooms that don't participate in SSR. As a volunteer you know you are making a real difference. Not to mention it is fun to go to school with dogs and read with kids! Is there any better motivation for a kid than to read out loud to a dog? It is really sweet too how the kids get attached to the dogs and volunteers. I had one little girl tell me she cried to her mom at home because she missed my dog.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sit Stay Read is a fantastic nonprofit that combines many of my passions: children, literacy & dogs. When I first learned of SSR, I thought what could be better – an organization that works with disadvantaged children, teaching them to read with the help of dogs?!? My experience has surpassed my very high expectations! After going through an extensive volunteer orientation, I was set up to observe a Sit Stay Read session. I watched as a program leader skillfully instructed the children as to the day’s assignment & then I participated with the groups of young readers while they began reading a book (about a dog of course!) and working on a writing assignment. At the same time, one child from each group goes to read individually with a dog team. Not to oversimplify, but at the end of the session, every child has read the day’s book in a variety of different manners and has had a one on one session with a dog and the dog’s handler. Each child has also had the opportunity to write his or her own story based on the book & a writing prompt; some of those stories are then read aloud to the group. What a great program! Sit Stay Read has been getting fantastic results with the kids & also with test scores. I believe that there’s even a waiting list to get SSR to come to schools! While I really cannot say enough good about the whole Sit Stay Read process, I should also mention that it’s a great nonprofit to volunteer for! SSR’s staff goes out of their way to be inclusive to their volunteers & to make each & every volunteer feel valued and appreciated. If the Sit Stay Read program sounds of interest to you, I would highly recommend that you get involved!