Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Newsletter
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April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month and Martha is barking about it! Find out how you can “go orange for animals,” incorporate humane education into your classroom, discover Martha’s own adoption story, and get your school involved with a local animal shelter. In this issue you will find:

In the Spotlight: “Go Orange for Animals”
Classroom Tips: Humane Education
Pup Tales: Community Building through Reading Buddies
More Fun with Martha: Earth Day Episodes and an Adoption Story
Links & Books: Useful Web Sites and Recommended Reading

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Go Orange for Animals

Each April, in honor of the signing of their charter in 1866, the ASPCA urges people across the country to “Go Orange for Animals” to show their support for ending animal cruelty. Throughout this month, iconic buildings and landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the Empire State building, and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge will demonstrate their support by lighting up in the ASPCA’s signature color. In 2010, the ASPCA awarded a prize pack to 10 lucky contributors who sent in “going orange” pictures like the one above of the Perth Amboy, New Jersey, High School Animal Activism Committee. Photos ranged from pets adorned in orange attire to classrooms of students dressed in orange and holding “go orange” signs.

Whether because of the bond we share with our own beloved pets, the amazing work of therapy and other service dogs–or the books and television show MARTHA SPEAKS, inspired by Susan Meddaugh’s real dog Martha–we know that animals enrich our lives and the lives of our students. Unfortunately, cruelty to animals, homelessness, and related problems are still prevalent in our society. There are so many ways we can easily help animals in need, including teaching our students about humane education (see Classroom Tips below), organizing a school shelter drive, or simply wearing orange in April to bring awareness to the cause.

Encourage your students to visit the ASPCA Kids website where they’ll find pet care and animal awareness tips, information on animal careers, instructive cartoon videos, games—and even a parrot named Azula to answer questions posted about animals.


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Humane Education

Martha is always willing to lend a paw and help her fellow pups. Here are a few ways to incorporate humane education into your Reading Buddies Program and classroom:

  • * Watch one of the many episodes on pet adoption or pet care. Martha’s Life in Crime, for example, tells Martha’s own adoption story and can help introduce kids to the idea of an animal shelter. The episode also features the vocabulary words autobiography and possibility. Click here for more episode suggestions.
  • * Invite a local animal shelter to come to your school and give a presentation about humane education.
  • * Hold a school bake sale to support your local animal shelter. Students can be encouraged to make “pup cakes” (a.k.a. cupcakes) or animal-shaped cookies.
  • * Collect blankets, food, and supplies for a school animal shelter drive. Be sure to contact the shelter first to find out what items would be most helpful. Kids can attach a letter to the shelter or to a shelter animal with their donation or they can decorate a dog-shaped donation tag to hang on a shelter dog bulletin board.

For more activity ideas, lesson plans, downloadable puzzles, and plenty of animal care tips, visit The Humane Society of the United States.


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Community Building through Reading Buddies

Not only can the Reading Buddies Program improve your school community by helping students develop new relationships with their buddies, it can serve as a great way to develop relationships within your local community. A visit from a humane society, animal shelter, or therapy animal group, for example, can be a special addition to the Reading Buddies Program.

At Walbridge Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio, the humane society was invited to help celebrate the conclusion of the Reading Buddies Program. “We had an amazing celebration at our school,” commented Public Television Station Outreach Director Kathy Smith. “The Toledo Area Humane Society did about 10 minutes of humane education using Cricket the dog as a real model and example. We distributed certificates and all the kids got to enjoy an ice cream treat with their buddies.”

Giant City Schools in Carbondale, IL had a similar idea. Outreach Field Representative Beth Spezia explained, “We had the notion that a culminating celebration would be good for the program, and we encouraged teachers to reach out to the veterinarians and animal shelters in our region. These organizations were delighted to get involved…then the teachers and students took the concept one step further by organizing a drive to gather animal care products for the shelter!”

This fall, WGBH is working with the Humane Society of the United States and public television stations nationwide to launch a Shelter Dog Campaign that will help raise awareness about animal activism, suggest event ideas, and provide plenty of materials and resources. Check the MARTHA SPEAKS Facebook page for information coming soon!

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A Massachusetts Adoption Story

Meet Decota, a dog who was adopted from the MSPCA/Angell in Boston, MA.

Sit. Stay. Watch!
Celebrate Earth Day with two new, environmentally friendly episodes—Wagstaff Races and The Missing Metal Mystery— that feature vocabulary words such as energy, solar, and biodegradable .

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Recommended Links

MARTHA SPEAKS Teaches Young Pet Lovers How to Care for Animals, a “directory of homeless pets and pet adoption organizations,” agrees that Martha is doing her part for fellow pups, and suggests additional MARTHA SPEAKS episodes that highlight powerful themes like pet ownership, adoption and advocacy.

Use Your Vocabulary Skills for Good!
For each word you can correctly define, The World Food Programme will donate 10 grains of rice to help end world hunger.

Recommended Reading

Shelter Dog Blues by Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
When Martha is accidentally taken to the pound, she makes friends with some special dogs. This TV tie-in book goes hand-in-hand with the two-part episode, Ain’t Nothin But a Pound Dog. Check out more MARTHA SPEAKS TV tie-in books at

"Let's Get a Pup!" Said Kate by Bob Graham. Candlewick Press, 2001.
What do you do when you fall in love with not one but two dogs at the animal shelter?

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Corporate funding for MARTHA SPEAKS is provided by Chuck E. Cheese’s®, Kiddie Academy® Child Care Learning Centers, and Chick-fil-A, Inc. Additional funding provided by Jennifer and Steven Walske and by public television viewers. Additional series funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn Grant. ©2011 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved. "Martha" and all characters and underlying materials (including artwork) from the "Martha" books are trademarks and copyrights of Susan Meddaugh and used under license. All other characters and underlying materials are trademarks of and copyrights of WGBH. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

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