By Brittany Basco
One in four children will grow up functionally illiterate and Pi Beta Phi sorority is working to change that with Read>Lead>Achieve; a philanthropy that promotes education, leadership, and friendship.
With support from The Literacy Fund at Pi Beta Phi Foundation, the local chapter of Pi Beta Phi at LSU has been able to visit Winbourne Elementary School and read with the same third grade class for 30 minutes twice a week. While this doesn’t sound like much, giving children the opportunity to be read to aloud for even small amounts of time has been proven by the American Academy of pediatrics to dramatically increase a child’s vocabulary and communication skills. As part of RLA, the ladies of Pi Beta Phi partner up with a student who chooses a book to read or that they would like to be read to, no matter the reading level.
Allie Desforges, an active member of Pi Beta Phi, says the kids are often shy at first, but after they warm up to you, they’re balls of energy who can’t wait to read.
“We are there to encourage them and help them out with the words they don’t know and it really is so much more than that to them and to us,” she said. “ Whenever we walk through the classroom doors, their faces light up. They are always so excited when the Pi Phis are here! Upon arrival, the kids will run up to give us hugs and are eager to tell us about their lives from the past couple days since we last visited.”
Reading isn’t all that goes on when Pi Beta Phi comes to visit. The students love telling their own stories about their lives and friends, and even just talking in general (shocker). Desforges often gets her hair braided on these visits and always is asked about what’s going on in her own life. For her and the girls of Pi Beta Phi, reading to these students has grown from community service into something much more precious.
“It really is the highlight of my week because these kids are the sweetest,” said Desforges. “We are so lucky to have this opportunity to help them grow as readers, be friends to them, and also to be role models.”
“And it’s amazing to watch these kids develop a higher level of reading by simply having fun. They start with the us reading to them and by the end of each semester, children who were once unable to read a full story book are able to read that book easily along with other books. They tell us ‘Let me read the book to you this time!’ rather than wanting to be read to. It’s amazing to hear a child read a full story book or to hear them read many books when they were incapable of doing so at first.”
The national mission of the RLA campaign is to positively impact the lives of one million children and, as of press time, has so far reached out to 360,579 kids. For more information on Pi Beta Phi and its philanthropic efforts like RLA, visit www.phibetaphi.org.