NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Middle Tennessee educator who has worked her entire career to help kids learn to read and overcome disabilities has come up with an early literacy program, with the help of her dog, Tuck.
Sandra Cummings has been in education for more than 30 years and she absolutely loves teaching. But the trend Cummings said she continues to see with students is breaking her heart.
“I can’t tell you. I could cry thinking about it right now,” she said.
Cummings helps students learn to read, specifically those with dyslexia and other disabilities. “Thirty-four percent of our fourth graders are below reading level. And on top of that, 31% are not at proficient,” said Cummings. It’s a problem she said she knew she had to do something about. “So I thought I’ve got to catch these two children before it’s too late.”
Her plan was to create books that help parents, educators and students, but hiring an illustrator would be expensive, so she looked to her best friend, Tuck the dog. “I thought I have the cutest dog in the world. Why don’t I use him?” remembered Cummings. “I was testing the waters, and he just was so good at it. And just, weirdly just feel like he knows what he’s doing. And he loves it.” The kids loved Tuck and Tuck loved the kids. “I think he’s so close to being a human!”
The Tuck Teaches set has three books, one for parents to guide them, a book just for kids to get to know Tuck and the last book is a reading guide, which is multi-sensory. “So they trace the letter and they say the letter, so they would trace and say Y, meanwhile, all the neurons that are in your fingers, I call them magic, because they are more neurons in the tips of your fingers. Because it goes up your arm and into your brain,” said Cummings.
She says this, along with her other tools like flashcards, make all the difference. Cummings’ mission in life is clear, it always has been. And now Tuck’s is as well: to help kids. “My main mission is to spread the word so that people, and parents, especially will understand that they can prevent their child from struggling, like literally it’s preventative medicine.”
For more information about the book and where to purchase it, visit TuckTeachesKids.com.