Since 2006, Sprite’s HERO, Inc. has provided in excess of 5100 hours of tutoring to over 2500 children in the greater Richmond area. In 2015 volunteers provided nearly 750 hours in 23 facilities tutoring or presenting to over 400 children.In January 2016, volunteer training was expanded to include a full day Paws to R.E.A.D.® class to review the manual, take the quiz, role-play to support readers and review Sprite’s HERO Volunteer Handbook. This provides a more solid beginning for new volunteers with clear expectations and feedback from current volunteers. Buddies have been created to accompany new volunteers on their first visits.Adding this training allowed us to add 12 new volunteer teams in 2016 (for a total of 29) and expand our scheduled programs to 14 elementary schools, 13 libraries and 1 community facility.In 2016 we participated in 13 special one-time visits requested by additional facilities including Middle Schools, Chesterfield County schools (which do not allow dogs during the day) and a special night with the PBS Ready to Learn program.In 2016, Sprite’s HERO also completed a contract with Henrico County Schools’ attorneys allowing us to expand our service to all schools in that county.Our goals for 2016/2017 Paws to R.E.A.D. are:
Full time Executive Director:Recruit, train, manage, coordinate, schedule, recognize volunteers; communicate with community leaders, school & library representatives & other facilities regarding the details and benefits of the program to the children in their facilities; raise donations to continue the organization’s operations and growth; attend all PR/marketing/fund raising events; and provide the link between volunteers, future staff, the community and the Board of Directors.
In 2005 a news article about Reading Education Assistance Dogs® in Maryland prompted Chris Miller and her therapy & crisis response dog, Sprite, to found Sprite’s Humane Education & Research Organization with a vision of sharing humane education through tutoring children to read.
In 2006, Sprite became the first Richmond area R.E.A.D.® dog and started the Paws to R.E.A.D. program.
The Paws to R.E.A.D. program prepares and manages volunteer owner/handlers and their therapy dogs for service in schools, libraries and other facilities to provide proven, successful animal assisted education in the form of one-on-one tutoring to children not currently reading at grade level. The nonjudgmental nature of the dogs lowers the stress level of students who struggle to read out loud.
The program is an affiliate of Intermountain Therapy Animals R.E.A.D. program, www.therapyanimals.org, and continues to use that organization’s training & supplemental material as well as support from its 15-plus years of experience and success in Salt Lake City elementary schools.
In 2006, a multi-year research project was initiated with Randolph Macon College Department of Psychology to gauge readers’ interest in reading both before and after reading to a dog for a full summer program.
In 2009, Sprite’s HERO, Inc. incorporated and created bylaws and a Board of Directors. In 2011 the organization received its 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS.
Due to consistently increasing requests for R.E.A.D. teams by area schools & libraries, the Paws to R.E.A.D. program remains the sole program currently managed by Sprite’s HERO, Inc. Every year more volunteer teams have been added & more facilities & children have been served. Most volunteers stay with the program for multiple years until, sadly, their canine partner passes away.
New facilities request teams based on word of mouth from current facilities, teachers, reading specialists or library staff. The program maintains a growing waitlist of facilities requesting R.E.A.D. teams. Public information sessions are offered multiple times/year to dog owners to provide information about how to register as a therapy team, how to register as a R.E.A.D. team, and how to become a Sprite’s HERO volunteer.
In 2016, full day training sessions were created for all new volunteers to review the ITA R.E.A.D. training manual, learn techniques for supporting the readers and review the Volunteer Handbook of Policies and Procedures.
How do you become proficient in something you do not like to do?
According to the Virginia Dept. of Education Report Cards, nearly 3000 third graders in greater Richmond FAILED the Reading SOL in 2016. Third graders only. When a 3rd grader cannot read she knows it. Her parents know it. Her teacher knows it. Her classmates know it. And it can hurt. If she is passed to 4th grade without solid reading skills her success in science, math and all other subjects will be compromised. Third grade is the time when students move from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’, and if they do not like reading and do not have strong comprehension and word decoding skills, they will not make that transition. The gap between them and their peers who read well will continue to grow.
“This program helped my child feel at ease (more relaxed) as he read. I think it has helped build his self confidence and self-esteem.”
Sprite’s HERO, Inc.’s Paws to R.E.A.D.® program provides a proven intervention technique to close that gap. The only R.E.A.D. program in greater Richmond, it employs the power of the human-animal bond, love between a child and a dog, to offer a positive, supportive, nonjudgmental environment for students to feel OK about making mistakes and learning from them. Our students truly look forward to reading. Nearly every student we tutor experiences an increase in self confidence and self-esteem which allows him the comfort to take on more challenges.
“I think I felt happy because she would not tell me if I got a word rong.”
The Paws to R.E.A.D. program has helped 1000’s of students increase their love of reading as well as their comprehension & fluency. We want to help 1000’s more.
In the fall of 2016, we will have programs in 14 area elementary schools and have 9 more waiting for programs. We also have 9 schools in Chesterfield waiting for their School Board to allow dogs in the buildings. We have 13 public library programs & four waiting. Our volunteers devote 100’s of hours per year weekly or monthly to help each individual child succeed in reading & love it. One-on-one attention to each child is critical. The presence of the dogs lowers the stress level in the children allowing them to relax, enjoy and look forward to their visit rather than dread reading aloud.
“Please continue to provide/offer this program to children that need the personal attention to thrive!” “I wish more students could participate.”
Sprite’s HERO has Paws to R.E.A.D.® teams working with students in elementary schools in Hanover & Henrico counties and the cities of Hopewell and Richmond. We have teams in public libraries in Chesterfield & Henrico Counties, Richmond City, Pamunkey Library branches of Atlee & Montpelier, & the Heritage library in New Kent County. We also have a team working with the Better Housing Coalition in Northside Richmond.
The Paws to R.E.A.D. Reading Education Assistance Dog® program utilizes registered, insured therapy dogs as nonjudgmental listeners to children as they read out loud. R.E.A.D. teams, comprised of an owner/handler and canine partner, assist children who are challenged readers. The presence of the dog lowers the stress of the reader, allowing for improvement in reading skill, comprehension, fluency and confidence.
R.E.A.D. teams are scheduled in public libraries, schools and other facilities where children read one-on-one for 20 minutes each to a furry, friendly listener.
In schools the children are chosen by reading specialists for their need for skill improvement and/or lack of motivation. In libraries, any child may sign up for a time slot to read to the dogs.
The program is managed by a volunteer executive director.
In 2016 Sprite’s HERO accomplished a:
45% increase in the number of volunteers from 20 to 29 – more than any single previous year due to increased online communication, information sessions, and scheduled R.E.A.D. training classes.
50% increase in school programs from 8 to 12
33% increase in library programs from 9 to 12
completed a contractual relationship with Henrico County Schools, allowing us to provide service to any school in the County;
provided nearly 100 new books to both school readers and repeat library readers for participating in the program;
received 52 feedback forms from teachers, parents and students describing the improvements in readers self-esteem, confidence and reading skill. 100% enjoyed it; most increased in confidence; about half improved in skill;
are currently completing the application to Henrico County Research dept. to obtain reading test score data for students in the 2016/2017 school year to evaluate & improve the Paws to R.E.A.D. program.
The vision of Sprite’s HERO Paws to R.E.A.D.® program is to have a qualified, dedicated R.E.A.D. team for every child who needs one and every facility that wants one. Requests for R.E.A.D. teams in our area far outweigh our volunteer hours available, yet the need of children for reading tutoring remains too high.
Our long term success will be measured by:
1 ) our ability to grow our volunteer base to enable us to not only fulfill our growing list of facility requests (23), but to also pro-actively reach out to more schools, libraries & community facilities to tutor more children.
The Paws to R.E.A.D.® program is currently vexed by its own success! More schools and libraries request the program than we have volunteer teams to provide it. Our volunteers are unique in that they are not just great with children, they also dedicate their time to train their canine partners to be registered therapy dogs - then train themselves to incorporate those partners into the tutoring of children.
Reading can change everything. Through the Paws to R.E.A.D. program, we have an opportunity to break the cycle of unemployment, poverty and crime that illiteracy can cause. We need to ensure the children in our community get the best scholastic assistance we can offer them, and Paws to R.E.A.D. is one way schools and libraries can do that. There is no cost to students, parents, schools or libraries to offer this one-on-one canine-assisted-reading program.
To meet this challenge, Sprite’s HERO needs funding and volunteers. Currently the organization, the Paws to R.E.A.D. program, 29 teams, 41 total volunteers and 32 monthly visits are completely managed part time by a volunteer executive director.
To provide R.E.A.D. teams to just the currently waitlisted facilities will require recruiting, presenting, training, processing, scheduling, and evaluating 15 – 20 additional volunteers. Chesterfield County schools also has 8 facilities waiting for the School Board to change their policy on dogs in the buildings, and sadly we have to fill current team positions when our canine partners pass away.
Sprite’s HERO has begun the process to obtain funding to hire dedicated staff to manage the organization and the program, and we need your help. We are expanding our Board of Directors in an effort to increase the community’s awareness of the impact of the Paws to R.E.A.D. program and have recently partnered with Royall & Company to utilize their pro-bono direct marketing skills to reach more corporate and foundation sponsors.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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