SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Andrea “Dott” Dotto talks to her pup. Her pup is a puppet. Dotto says she’s always been creative.
Dott says, “So, I’m an actor.”
Her puppet friend Dusty says, “Me, too.”
Dott: “And Dusty as well. Dusty was on the Annie tour.”
Dusty: “Ya. Third understudy for Sandy. She never called out!”
That fun back-and-forth is what Dusty and Dott bring to “Reading Buddies,” a new TV and web show being developed through The Reading League, a national non-profit headquartered here on the Near Westside of Syracuse.
“We’re teaching kids how to read,” says Dott. “We’re teaching them how to use their voice. And they can tell stories. They can grow to be whatever. And we’re big proponents of that. That you can grow up to be whatever you want to be.”
The Reading League works to make more than forty years of scientific research accessible to teachers. When the pandemic hit, they knew that teachers needed help. And that included all the parents who took on the role.
“School doesn’t look the same as it did a year ago,” says Reading League Vice-President of Marketing and Development Toni Ann Walsh. “And it’s not going to look the same in a year. And we knew we could play a role in helping teachers, administrators, but also parents and students, strengthen their reading skills.”
“Reading Buddies” shows the influence of classic children’s programming like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and Shari Lewis and Lambchop. Dott interacts in each episode with puppets Dusty and “Alphabott the Learning Tool,” adding some dancing, music, and a lot of humor along the way.
“I think Reading Buddies has a real potential to be fun and engaging and interactive,” says Dott. “And so many kids haven’t had much interaction this year, but we also get to pair with the science of reading.”
The show is scheduled to launch on WCNY’s Global Connect channel and on YouTube late this summer. Dott hopes it can capture a wide audience, maybe even go national. And Dusty has even bigger plans.
“Well, first dog president of the United States. That’s my first (goal),” says the pup. “That’s my five-year plan.”