Pi Beta Phi Celebrates an Amazing Philanthropy Week While Looking Towards the Future

Pi Beta Phi is the nation’s oldest women’s fraternity. This year marks their 150th anniversary. The significance of this, beyond the obvious reasons, is that Pi Phi members internationally have been working on reaching their goal of affecting one million lives through their philanthropy by their 150th celebrations at the end of June 2017. ONE MILLION. The task sounds daunting, but actually, they are pretty darn close! Their philanthropy is something that is too often taken for granted- literacy. Learning how to read is not a skill that most of us can imagine life without. Think about it- driving down the street and not being able to read street signs or billboards. Looking at a book or piece of paper with a bunch of jumbled signs and symbols all over it. The entire world would feel like a coded message that you just can’t crack. Literacy is not just reading, it’s writing and comprehension too. This article would not have been able to be written or read if we were not a literate community. Pi Phi members are working hard to change the fact that 1 in 4 children grow up not learning how to read or write. Pi Phi believes that learning to read is the first step to a life of education, leadership, and success.

Pi Beta Phi’s philanthropy is an organization of their own, Read>Lead>Achieve. This foundation works to provide children with the books and education they need to become literate. Pi Phi also has a program called Champions are Readers®. CAR is a reading enrichment program for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. "The program focuses on providing a mentoring relationship between volunteers and students while focusing on reading strategies for learning. CAR Connect links CAR classrooms with First Book to provide free books to the children being served in the program. Since its launch, more than 30,000 students have participated in the CAR program in the United States and Canada." -pibetaphi.org. 

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Some of the activities active members are doing are weekly volunteer tutoring at local low-income elementary schools and coordinating book drives and deliveries to local elementary schools. On Dr. Seuss’ birthday, members of Pi Beta Phi head over to a school and read their childhood favorite Dr. Seuss book while dressed up in crazy costumes to show children how fun reading and rhyming can be. The Utah Alpha house also hosts events such as Pie a Pi Phi: where members literally get pies thrown in their faces for children; Arrow Spike: a university-wide volleyball tournament; Pi Burger Phri: an all-you-can-eat burger and fry bar; Arrow Jam: talented members of various Greek organizations come in and sing or play music to raise money; and, of course, selling t-shirts because nothing counts in the Greek world unless you have a shirt to prove it.

Active members of the Utah Alpha chapter love this philanthropy because “it’s hands-on. We get to go read to local students, help them with their homework, and send them home with a childhood book we loved so they can learn to read it and love it too. The impact we make is so much more personal this way and it truly is an incredible feeling.” The current Vice President of Philanthropy, Alison Boos, says that “"Pi Beta Phi's efforts to support childhood literacy in underprivileged schools is something that has stuck with me from day one and Read>Lead>Achieve is an amazing program to support. I would have to say the one thing that sets our philanthropy apart is that we are able to go into the community and see the difference we are making in the lives of young children. The experience and tools that I learned by volunteering through Read>Lead>Achieve is something I will forever be indebted to Pi Phi for.”

Watch this video and try not to cry- I dare you.

Facts About Literacy in the US:

1) 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.

2) Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.

3) Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime.

4) More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.

5) 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.

6) In 2013, Washington, D.C. was ranked the most literate American city for the third year in a row, with Seattle and Minneapolis close behind. Long Beach, CA was ranked the country’s most illiterate city, followed by Mesa, AZ, and Aurora, CO.

7) Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.