C.A.R. Program

Our Sad Farewell To CAR Fall 2015

Well, we had a wonderful ten-year CAR ride with our third-grade Champions!

We enjoyed the kids, they liked to see us, and the feed back from the teachers was positive. At least, we showed a lot of kids that reading can be fun. We could not have done it without dedicated Pi Phis and friends. Thank you for the time and care you all shared with some kids who really need it.

Champions Are Readers (CAR) 2014-2015

October 2014 from 9:00 – 10:00am at Steele Lane Elementary School


Champions Are Readers: 2012-2013

Excellence in LiteracyValley of the Moon Pi Phis and friends filled Mary Schroeder’s calendar with three volunteers every day for four weeks in October at Steele Lane School. Kate Gillespie proved to be an excellent addition to our teacher group, along with Janet Wittry and Nicole Mule. Each classroom had only 17 or 18 children. We arranged to have the kick-off on the Friday before the listening sessions began and the awards ceremony the Monday after they concluded, so that gave us two extra days and more time with each child.

Susan Baggett, a new member in our club, jumped right into the program. Besides coming to listen to the children read, she agreed to lend her talents and wonderful puppets for a special treat at the awards ceremony. The children LOVED it, and Susan will have a permanent gig! We had a good turnout of parents, and Cindy Smith took pictures of each child to take home.

C.A.R. ProgramWe were asked by the international literacy Pi Phi project to evaluate some materials for changing the CAR program before it was presented to the Convention delegates in June in San Diego. We were happy to work this into our return visit to Steele Lane in the spring. It was already decided to eliminate the medals, and we had mixed feelings about this. The proposed substitute award of a blue ribbon rosette was nixed by all of us, but we liked the idea that CAR could expand to include more grade levels and also simplify the paper work. Worksheets and suggestions for activities seemed to duplicate the teachers’ normal lesson plans, but they did give some good ideas. Our club prides itself on interaction with the children, so we appreciated the emphasis on that in the proposed program, along with the “flexibility it offered. We look forward to returning to Steele Lane in the fall.

In Bodega Bay, it was the tenth year for CAR! It takes place every February, and this year there were 27 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Twenty-three students received medals – a very important part of the program in the estimation of the teachers. The blue ribbons and other new materials really did not appeal to the teachers, as most of the ideas were already being used.

CAR Kids Awards Ceremony Puppet Show

CAR Kids Awards Ceremony

Our CAR program is unique in that we have local volunteers who come to the afterschool program to listen to the children read. It does NOT occur during the actual school day. It is difficult for the children who don’t remain at school, as it means that parents need to be involved at home. It seemed that parent/sibling involvement was happening on the children’s honor, and that was a concern.

This was the first year we offered a book at the beginning of the program for the children to keep. JoAnn Bray, our VOM volunteer, was disappointed that older children who received chapter books did not seem to follow through to the end and didn’t always have the book available to read to the volunteer. If books are given again next year as part of the program, she would stress that chapter books be read all the way through. She is looking forward to continuing the program in February, 2014.

Champions are Readers (CAR) Literacy Program 2011-2012

This year we had three classes again at Steele Lane School, with Debbie Inman back as our contact teacher and Janet Whittry and Nicole Mule continuing. We found the children in general at a higher level of reading skills. Undoubtedly this was due to the excellent basis provided by Debbie and Monica Thompson as their second grade teachers last year. We began our challenge month (October) with twelve Pi Phis and six friends on board. We were able to cover the classrooms every day and even had five listeners one day when Mary Anne Cesario’s granddaughter and a new friend joined us. As usual the last week was hectic, but with help from Verley Gregerson and Carol Glover, the certificates were packed with books for the medal winners and only four CAR keys given to children who need encouragement “ to get their engines started.”

scan0083March found us back at Steele Lane School with our “check-back” listening schedule. The children seemed happy to see us again, and we were pleased to see a dramatic improvement in skills for many of them. As before, Ms. Mule had the most challenging students, and she appreciated our one-on-one attention. She asked if we would consider helping her with a summer program if she could put it together. It was not easy to arrange, but the Coddingtown Library offered the space. Five Pi Phis and a friend volunteered to help for eleven mornings in June and July. Ms. Mule targeted five students for special help, and we were happy to offer our assistance. It’s a new phase in our Valley of the Moon CAR program! February is “CAR Month” at Bodega Bay School. In 2012 JoAnn Bray reports that 25 children were participants in grades two through five, with 17 of them meeting the goal to receive medals. There were eight volunteers on hand to listen, six of them “Friends of Pi Phi.” It was especially exciting that three of the second graders who met the goal read every single day. Even a first grader wanted to read each day. She must be preparing for next year! However, some of the older students didn’t come through as usual. In spite of that, the teachers are enthusiastic about the program, and CAR is on the 2013 calendar for the tenth year in Bodega Bay!

Champions are Readers (CAR) Literacy Program 2010-2011

For eight years now Valley of the Moon has shared the CAR program with the children of Bodega Bay and Santa Rosa. Each year we come to appreciate the dedication of the teachers and fall in love with our small champions. In Santa Rosa, the program has evolved as we have learned. We took twelve programs to six different schools in the first four years –three in 2006 alone. In 2009 we decided to focus our efforts only on Steele Lane School. As we became known there, we expanded our program to include a refresher session in March. This year our enthusiastic volunteer friends, Dorothy Spierings and Trish Rumberger, wanted to continue working with Ms. Mule’s most challenging students following the awards ceremony. In January three Pi Phi CAR “veterans” joined them in continuing weekly visits whenever possible. Mrs. Wittry and Ms. Inman assured us that they would also welcome our help outside the scheduled programs. February is known as “CAR Month” at Bodega Bay Elementary School. The 2011 theme was California Missions, inspired by our alum club’s excursion to the Cline Cellars Mission Museum last year. All but one of the CAR participants met the goal of reading out loud for at least 15 minutes for a minimum of 20 days. The one girl who missed the goal wrote on the class thank you card, “If you don’t first succeed, try, try again.” We bet she’ll make it! Six Pi Phi sisters came from Santa Rosa for the awards ceremony, were graciously treated to lunch by JoAnn and Ben Bray and were thrilled to meet the children and school staff at their pretty school on a hill overlooking the Bay. Bodega Bay is rather rural so JoAnn depends on local volunteers to help make the program work. This year there were nine helpers plus Pi Phi Marmee Clausen, who comes for the winter. CAR Month is already on the calendar for 2012 with a theme of “Fort Ross.” If you are interested in volunteering to be a listener with the CAR Program please contact us.

Valley of the Moon Alumnae Club Sonoma County, California Literacy Stories

Impact on our members: Upon returning from Convention in 2003, Illinois Epsilon MARY KAHLENBERG SCHROEDER introduced the CAR literacy program to Valley of the Moon Alumnae Club at their September meeting. She thought it would be impossible for the club to participate. After all, at that time, the average age of the club was nearly 70 years old. Well, quite the contrary. CAR was enthusiastically welcomed and has become an extremely important commitment for our club. California Zeta, SUZANNE SHARROCKS NELSON had faithfully paid her dues for more than 30 years but was not at “active” member. When CAR was mentioned in the club president’s newsletter, she jumped at the chance to be involved in the literacy cause. California Delta, BEVERLY NELSON ZAHL’s love of helping children develop led her to approach her grandson’s school with the CAR concept. Together Bev and Susie have led the program in Santa Rosa for eight consecutive years. Michigan Beta HELEN LAHEY FULTON embraced the program with great enthusiasm. In fact, at that September meeting Helen told the members she would like to implement the CAR program in the small community of Bodega Bay where she lived. At the time Helen was 84 years old and as far as she knew the only Pi Phi in her community, but she was already a volunteer at the school and knew she could do this. Bodega Bay School is a small two-room school for grades K thru 5 with an attendance of 38 students. Missouri Gamma JOANN PLAYTER BRAY had not been a member of an alumnae club since her graduation from college. She was already a volunteer at the school when Helen gave the CAR program information to her. And even having known one another for many years, that is how they found out they were both Pi Phis. In addition to helping with CAR, JoAnn started attending meetings with Helen and soon became an active alumnae member. Helen passed away in 2008 at the age of 88, but JoAnn and other volunteers continue the legacy Helen began at the Bodega Bay School. In fact JoAnn recruited another Pi Phi to help with the CAR program. Wisconsin Gamma MARMEE MILLER CLAUSEN (who visits Bodega Bay for 3 months every winter) responded to a notice JoAnn posted in the local paper asking for volunteer listeners for a literacy program sponsored by Pi Beta Phi. Impact on others: The “CAR ladies” are instantly recognized when they arrive at school. Younger siblings anticipate reaching third grade so they can become champions. And sometimes we are fortunate enough to see the benefit of our endeavors. Bev Zahl arrived at school a bit early one day. While she was waiting outside during recess a young boy who had already completed the CAR program sat down next to her with a book. When Bev asked if he would like to read aloud to her, he enthusiastically replied, “Oh yes”. Several years ago one of the teachers in Santa Rosa was less than enthusiastic about our literacy program. Each year she has become more of a believer and this year she asked the CAR ladies if they could come back EVERY MONTH during the school year just to listen. At the Bodega Bay School the children in the 3–5th grade classroom asked if there was a way the children in the K–2nd grade classroom could participate in some way. The volunteers have made it happen. One of the reasons for our success is a committee of twelve dedicated members who meet and communicate regularly. Because we are a small club of 32 paying members we could not accomplish all that we do without the involvement of our many dedicated friends and volunteers who are not Pi Phis. They are champions for us because we all know literacy is not an exclusive cause. There is no doubt that the Pi Beta Phi literacy program and Valley of the Moon Alumnae Club have made an impact on our children, our community, our volunteers and our members. We have all been enriched. Thank you Pi Beta Phi for furthering the cause of literacy!   Sally Shoemaker, Arizona Beta