Guest column: Petting horses, but not a police patrol car

Tina and Officer Mark Lundquist. (Photo by William Ersland)
Tina and Officer Mark Lundquist. (Photo by William Ersland)


Let’s start today with Tina the tiny horse. Well — perhaps not tiny — but small and injured when kicked by another horse shortly after being born. She was not viewed as very promising as a youngster (some of us can relate to that). Through the intervention of Karin Winegar, a wise woman who saw promise, Tina and the St Paul Police met each other.

Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan

This became a great combination. There was the time that Tina and her mounted policeman chased and caught a robber. Other times they calmed folks at festivals who were, shall we say, becoming “unruly”?

Dogs, horses, cats and kids – those can be great together. How about if you throw in heart-warming books and reading? As we approach winter vacation, I hope families will consider bringing this winning combination together. Two instantly engaging, wonderful books, one of them brand new, give families a great opportunity to do this.

Karin Winegar, an award-winning author who has written for various newspapers including The New York Times, has a terrific new children’s book, “Tina of Grand Avenue.” It has lots of pictures, and an inspiring story.

Officer Mark Lundquist of the St. Paul Police, who rode Tina, told me, “People would always come to pet my horse and ask me questions about my job. I have never, in 25 years of law enforcement had anyone come up and pet my squad car. It is invaluable in relationship building between the city and community.” He describes the book as “a great story of a horse and human who had developed a strong bond.” I agree. It’s available from or at Winegar’s website,

Winegar has done another book that is a great gift to families, “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform.” This has 28 true stories, featuring people of different races, whose lives became far happier when an animal joined them. You can read any of these stories in 10 to 15 minutes, making them perfect for busy families.

Reading with or to kids has enormous value. A research summary published in Science Daily helped explained this: “Young children whose parents read aloud to them have better language and literacy skills when they go to school. Children who have been read aloud to are also more likely to develop a love of reading, which can be even more important than the head start in language and literacy.”

Moreover, “A Child Becomes a Reader,” a report for the federal National Institute for Literacy, pointed out “…researchers have told us something very important. Learning to read and write can start at home, long before children go to school. Children can start down the road to becoming readers from the day they are born.”

A report by professor Donald J. Hernandez of Hunter College and City University of New York that studied almost 4,000 people found that students who are not reading well by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school, as those who do read well by then. More info at

Back to Winegar’s books: Whether it’s Tina’s story, or one of the 28 accounts in “Saved,” Winegar has given families the opportunity to spend time together, laughing, crying and developing marvelous memories.

Joe Nathan loves reading with and to his three children. Formerly a public school teacher and administrator, he now directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, [email protected]