Vanessa Kalinowski is a teacher who’s passionate about helping animals and people in her community. Ever since she took the RedRover Readers training in August 2010, she’s been helping RedRover spread empathy and messages of kindness toward animals and others. That’s more than seven years of using the RedRover Readers program in her classroom – which adds up to more than 200 children!

On Read Across America day, Vanessa dressed as The Cat in The Hat for Dr. Seuss’s Birthday and used the RedRover Readers program to talk with her students about what a cat needs and how cats and people are similar and different. She also uses the RedRover Readers program in the Sacramento SPCA’s Camp Kindness.

Vanessa and her students helped RedRover create a video about the impact of the RedRover Readers program. We recently visited Vanessa and captured photos of her and her beloved rescue dog, Chocolate.

When you think about Chocolate (your dog), what comes to your mind?
Vanessa: She is spoiled, a princess, happy, sweet and loving. And she loves food!

How did you and Chocolate meet?
V: I was volunteering at the Sacramento SPCA. Other people had passed Chocolate up at the shelter — her skin was saggy because she likely had had a litter of puppies. I knew she would be perfect, and she is. She is very smart, social and loves people… and food.

What is the best thing about your dog Chocolate?
V: Her personality and how she smiles.

How has Chocolate helped you and others?
V [smiling proudly]: I remember one time I brought Chocolate to my class, and one little boy ran to the back of the classroom. He and his mother had been chased by another dog and he was afraid. Little by little as the other students were petting Chocolate and giggling, the little boy started to approach and said, “I think I want to pet her.” And later he said, “I am not afraid of dogs anymore.”

What do you think of Kind News magazine?
V: I love it! My students and I get it, and I’ll be renewing our subscription.

What would you tell others about RedRover?
V: I talk to lots of people about RedRover. I tell them that RedRover helps bring animals from crisis to care and they have a reading program that increases empathy and works for kids’ internal cognition.

Do you like actual chocolate?
V: Yes!

That’s good news, because RedRover has partnered with Russell Stover Chocolates for Valentine’s Day!

Look for candy bars and boxes of chocolates featuring photos of animals that RedRover has helped in retail stores across the county and at www.russellstover.com.

Learn more about the RedRover Readers program at RedRover.org/Readers.