Pizza Hut restaurants have been working to improve reading literacy among America’s children through its “Book It” program for more than 30 years.
The company recently recognized Shannon Barman, general manager of the Williamsburg Pizza Hut who received the “Book It! Champion Award” for her and her store’s commitment to the program.
Barman burst into tears of joy as Jim Gandy, Regional Vice President of Rage Inc., the Williamsburg Pizza Hut owner, told Barman that not only was she a finalist for the award, but that she had won the award.
“Your commitment to the kids and your commitment to the team makes us incredibly proud to have you part of our organization,” Gandy said.
Barman was initially left speechless, but eventually managed to get out a few words.
“Oh, my Lord!” Barman said. “I can’t believe it.”
Barman gave credit to her crew, known throughout the area as “Team Willy.”
Barman said the name began approximately four years ago.
“It has never been about myself. It has always been about my team.” Barman said. “Everything that I have done, without them I am nothing.”
One of the team members said the feeling is mutual, explaining the team members refer to Barman as “mama.”
The Book It program is open to students in grades K-6.
Teachers set a monthly reading goal for each child in their class. The goal, which is based on the student’s reading ability, may include reading a set number of books, pages or minutes.
When a student reaches that goal, they receive a Reading Award Certificate recognizing the accomplishment. The certificate may be brought to Pizza Hut to be redeemed for a free personal pan pizza.
Barman said when a student comes into the Williamsburg store with the certificate; Team Willy works to make it an experience.
“We shine the spotlight on the achievement,” Barman said adding the goal is to empower the students and make them feel special so they want to continue to read and learn and grow.
“In reality, that is what I wanted as a kid,” Barman said.
Barman has been the store’s general manager for five years and one of the first things she asked about when she came on board, was becoming more involved in the community, Gandy said.
“She has incorporated her team members into the community,” Gandy said.
In addition to Book It, Gandy said Barman has the store involved in the “Shop With a Cop” program, raising money to help fund it.
“What keeps us going is each other and our community,” Barman said.
Barman will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be travelling to the company conference in Phoenix, Arizona on May 9 to formally receive the award.