Reading program pairs children with passive role models


CLERMONT, Fla .– Savannah Arsenault patiently awaits the opportunity to read to Toby.

What would you like to know

  • Read to Sydney is a program that encourages children to read by letting them read to dogs
  • Thom Battisto founded the program because of his experience as a child with learning disabilities
  • The reading program has been around for 10 years, but recently launched a bookmobile

The 4-year-old says she enjoys reading “a lot, a lot and a lot”.

Toby is happy to listen anytime, thanks to a program called Read in Sydney.

“He’s a fluffy, cute dog,” says Savannah.

Read to Sydney founder Thom Battisto says it all started because of what he experienced as a child.

“(I had) ADD (attention deficit disorder), dyslexia, learning disabilities … but at the time it was ‘He’s lazy’,” he said.

Read to Sydney has been around for 10 years now, giving children the opportunity to read to a four-legged friend. This summer the group opened two new chapters.

The bookmobile recently made its debut, sailing several times a week.

“The van is a stand-alone library, so we’ll be bringing everything into the parking lot or inside the business,” Battisto said.

Read to Sydney has also grown by working with Kiwanis of Clermont to place book boxes in Lake County, including at the Cat Cafe.

“Sometimes not all children can go to the library all the time. So far we have tried to place them throughout the community where there is easy access for children and parents, ”said Chuck Seaver, the new president of Kiwanis of Clermont.

Battisto says his dream is to make Read to Sydney a national organization, with bookmobiles and lending libraries in major cities across the country.

“It makes me very happy that the children want to learn and that they are able to learn at their own level,” he said.

Battisto hopes to reach as many children as possible. Books are free in the book boxes and the bookmobile.

“I love what I do and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I work with my best friends, ”Battisto said.

As for Savannah, she has a big reading goal for this summer.

“A hundred of them,” she said.


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