Kiwanis pizza reading1

Marcus Thompson surveys his slice of pizza as his brother, Aaron Harris, shows off a book during the Kiwanis Club's 10th annual pizza literacy lunch Friday, Feb. 22, 2020, at the Champaign Early Childhood Center.

Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — The Kiwanis Club of Champaign-Urbana was looking for more ways to help children 10 years ago when Amy Hayden, the since-retired principal of the Champaign Early Childhood Center, had an idea.

“She wanted to have an event where the parents and kids could come and have a chance where they could talk informally,” Kiwanis member George Willhite said. “There’s no pressure. It’s not kid-evaluation time. They just come and sit and talk.”

That’s how Kiwanis’ yearly literacy pizza lunches began. Students from the preschool who need extra help in order to be ready for kindergarten are invited along with parents to a pizza lunch and get to pick a book to take home.

“The first year it was pancakes, but those were kind of messy with syrup and butter and so forth, so we switched to pizza,” Willhite said.

The lunches happen on two separate days: one for the morning classes and one for the afternoon classes, the second of which took place Friday.

“We’re a youth-oriented organization, and our weekly pledge is to help serve children of the world,” Willhite said. “It’s fun for us.”

News-Gazette