Reading Goes to the Dogs


When I wrote the first Tinka book, FUN DOG, SUN DOG, I didn’t know there were programs that used dogs to help children learn to read. I just wrote it because I loved my dog.

Deborah Heiligman and the real TinkaBut by the time I was thinking about the next book (and Tinka had left this world, sob), I knew about the programs, and I thought that it would be fun to honor that wonderful idea. It’s amazing how well it works to have kids read to dogs. They relax, and have fun, and it improves reading skills (in the kids; the dogs, not so much) by up to 20% compared to kids who are not in a reading-to-dogs program!

So in the next book, Tinka runs away to her boy’s school and wreaks havoc. So how do the kids get the grown-ups to let her stay? You guessed it! She feels very much at home in their reading corner! She’s a look dog, a nook dog, a loves-to-hear-a-book dog!

People who work in reading with dogs programs use many different books, of course, but  I know some of them use the Tinka books and Cool Dog, School Dog is a favorite (this is not a scientific study–I just know some of the groups like it!).

I’ve been in touch with one group in California called BARK, Beach Animals Reading with Kids. Josie often sends me photos from her programs. When she sent me this one:

CV_school3 (1)I asked my publisher to send the group a few copies of Snow Dog, Go Dog. (Even though there’s not a lot of snow at the beach…) The lovely folks at Two Lions did just that and now I have some photos of kids with Snow Dog. Here are some happy kids and some adorable (if sometimes distracted or sleeping) dogs:


Boy is paying attention to book. Dog is not.

syrah5 Ah, dog is now paying attention! She likes the idea of being a body-sledding-slide dog. syrah12There is some reading going on! And also some belly-rubbing.


And at another school:



Click on photo to enlarge it. It is worth it for the smile.


easton2Snow Dog ends: Tinka is a rosy dog, a dozy dog, a hugged-and-fed-and cozy dog! This dog is pretty cozy, too, and she looks so much like my Tinka did!

Reading and dogs. They go together like… well, like kids and dogs.

Happy Winter (Even if you’re at the beach)! Happy Reading!




Snow Dog, Go Dog! A Review by Van, Age 5


In honor of the first snow of 2014, and what a big one it is, I hereby share this most adorable review of SNOW DOG, GO DOG, my third book about Tinka our beloved departed Golden Retriever. This book is dedicated to Ketzie the Dog, and my BFF who helped us find her, Nancy Sandberg. But don’t take my word for any of this. Watch what Van has to say.


Infinitely Happy and Grateful

I remember when my brother taught me about infinity. It was a concept that had me upset for some reason. And I couldn’t grok it. How could something go on forever and ever? In true big-brother fashion, Phil said: “Imagine that you ride your tricycle around the block and never stop.” I stared at him: “NEVER STOP?” This made me so sad. I’d never be able to sit at the kitchen table again? Never be able to hug my mommy and daddy? How could this be a good thing?

“That’s right, NEVER,” he said, possibly laughing menacingly, looking at my scared little face. I probably cried. This conversation about infinity gave me the same sick-to-my -stomach feeling that I felt when I looked in the mirror in the closet in our den. There were three mirrors atop a built-in storage unit, two of them facing each other so that the image of me looking in the mirror went on endlessly. This both fascinated and terrified me. During this time I also lay awake at night worrying about death. (Anyone who says being a child is easy is—wrong.)

Thinking about my conversation with Phil now, and how emotional the concept of infinity was to me, I wonder if I shouldn’t have pushed myself (or been pushed) to go farther in math. I got shaky in trigonometry, zoned out in calculus. But if I’d been encouraged, who knows? Maybe I could have been a mathematician. Doubtful. But I do rue the day that I gave up trying to understand calculus. I guess higher math is lost to me forever. Writing this book about Paul Erdős, and meeting so many wonderful mathematicians has been both a joy and a frustration. I like them so much, but I won’t ever truly understand what they are talking about. Though recently I had the experience of kind of getting something Joel Spencer was telling me. And being very excited about that. (Don’t ask me what it was, I won’t be able to explain it.)

The reason I’m writing today is twofold—one because I have wanted to talk about infinity for a while, and two because some nice things have been happening with The Boy, and since I’m officially on a Twitter break, this seems to be a good place to say what I want to say. (And I don’t know how to remove the automatic feed to Twitter, so it will be there, too, kind of by accident. Anyway…) And what I want to say is: THANK YOU, WORLD.

I might make some mathematicians’ eyebrows raise by using the word this way, but I am infinitely happy (but I AM!) and grateful for how much lovely attention THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH is getting. Please go to The Boy page to see it all (or as much as I know).

But before you go, I have to redeem my brother in case you’re thinking he’s not a good guy. He is. He’s a great guy, and not because of what I’m about to tell you. The other day he called, and said, “I was just driving back from doing family research in Harrisburg, and I put on the New York Times podcast about the best books of the year. Your book is there! YOUR book!” His pride in me made me so happy. It made me cry. I love him to infinity.

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