Season 6, Episode 9

Lessons from a talking dog: TV’s “Reading Buddies” on making learning fun

In this episode, we take you behind the scenes of the smash hit foundational reading series The Reading League’s “Reading Buddies,” aimed at students in pre-K through third grade. Susan is joined by Andrea Dotto and Brendan Malafronte—artists, performers, and co-founders of children’s story hour and media company Dusty & Dott—as well as “Reading Buddies” executive producer Toni Ann Walsh. Together, the four of them discuss how the show started and how Andrea and Brendan got up to speed on the Science of Reading, and share tips for educators and caregivers on how to make reading instruction fun for kids.

Meet our guest(s):

Toni Ann Walsh

Toni Ann Walsh is executive producer of “Reading Buddies.” She has 20 years in nonprofit management and is a 40 Under 40 Award recipient.

Andrea Dotto

Andrea Dotto is president of Dusty & Dott. She debuted in the Tony Award-winning show “Bandstand,” earning a Chita Rivera Award nomination for Outstanding Female Dancer. TV credits include the 71st Tony Award Show and “Good Morning America.”

Brendan Malafronte

Brendan Malafronte is co-creator of Dusty & Dott. He was a puppeteer on the International Tour of “John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean,” and performed in a tour of “Annie”.  He participated in the Sesame Workshop and puppeteered on Nickelodeon and in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“Our mission is to educate educators on the Science of Reading because we believe that if educators have that knowledge, they can transform kids' lives.” —Toni Ann Walsh
“Little by little you can learn to read, you can do something hard and we can do it together.” —Andrea Dotto
“As a storyteller, I can go on a stage and tell a story and know, ‘Oh, that song made somebody connect to a memory,’ or ‘These two hours, they got to escape whatever is bothering them at home.’ That escapism is special and magical. But with reading buddies you get escapism and then you also get impact.” —Andrea Dotto
“God bless teachers. They're incredible. And we are here to help you continue to be incredible. We're here to give you tools to excite your students and just complement everything that you are doing.” —Brendan Malafronte

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