Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Bikes, Better Readers

Brothers Armando (front left) and Alejandro Pereira (front right) happily show off their new bikes with Elves & More founder David Moore (back left) and David's wife Jenny (back right).
Several hundred Spring Branch ISD elementary students are reading better and riding shiny, new bicycles because of one group’s literacy goal for area youth.

Brothers Alejandro and Armando Pereira pedaled and rolled out of the gym at Sherwood Elementary School on Dec. 12 with new bicycles, a semester’s-end bonus and gift from Cycle, a nonprofit group that donates 10,000 bikes across Houston yearly.

Alejandro, a second-grader at Sherwood, and his brother, Armando, who is in kindergarten, did not get a “free” bike for the holidays. They signed contracts earlier in the school year to improve their reading ability and skills. Alejandro reports that he’s increased from Level 24 to 28, and he’s happy about it.

“Now I get a new bike, and I’m sure going to ride it,” he said Saturday. “I might ride to my neighbor’s house because my friend has a bike. He does wheelies!”

Early Saturday, Dec. 12, dozens of community and corporate volunteers arrived at Sherwood to help hand out up to 240 bicycles. The bikes were awarded to students in kindergarten through third grade who made reading level gains.

During the morning hours, volunteers works with families, moving students along from helmet-fitting stations in the school cafeteria to the gym, where they chose a new bicycle.
Citgo volunteers at Sherwood Elementary

In September, volunteers with Cycle, formerly known as Elves & More, showed up at Sherwood for a pep rally, where campus students and parents signed reading contracts. Good behavior and regular attendance of 90 percent or more is required before a bike is issued, too.

Cycle is an acronym for Changing Young Children’s Lives through Education.

“They leave here today with a bike, but they leave with so much more. They know something better about themselves today,” Cycle founder David Moore said.

“For many students at Sherwood Elementary,” Principal Stefanie Spencer said, “the bike is much more than something they earned, maybe more along the lines of a nose twitch, eye wink and a belly that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly – the sort of magic that every childhood deserves regardless of circumstance. In either case, the day the bicycles came will be one they remember for a lifetime.”

Cycle was founded 13 years ago as the private charity Elves & More by Moore, then working in management consulting with Accenture. He and his wife, Jenny, continue this work together as a family with their children, Parker and Penelope.

Elves & More distributed toys at first, then in 2003 moved to bicycles. A few years later, it added a contract with students, open to all academic areas and all students.

Recognizing the importance of a child’s reading level to future success, Cycle started writing reading improvement contracts five years ago with students in kindergarten through third grade. Volunteers build and gift bikes to youths across the Houston region in three seasons – winter holiday, spring and summer.

Many volunteers are Memorial-Spring Branch residents, and many have donated time to Moore’s organization for many years.

On Dec. 12, bikes were given out at Sherwood and 17 other Houston-area schools.

“I started up this program for the student who is the one others think is not going to make it – the F student. With only a bike, I get many students to see a better option for themselves,” Moore said.

A bike helps “a child learn something about themselves,” he adds. Likewise, Cycle volunteers learn something they did not know when they encounter and work with children in need, who account for many, but not all, new bike recipients. “They’ll go home with new knowledge that the poor are not lazy,” Moore said.

Sherwood Elementary Principal Stefanie Spencer began volunteering with the nonprofit group during its early, start-up years. Today, she views it from the principal’s perch.

“One family this morning said that they would not have a Christmas without a new bicycle,” she said. “That mom cried when she saw her child on a bike.”

Principal Spencer also said, “Elves & More, now Cycle, has always represented to me the notion that every child and what they know of the world matters. A bicycle is a fundamental childhood means of play and discovery. The transition to reading contracts that Cycle has made directly teaches children that their efforts at school matter, and that everyone’s efforts can truly result in growth.  The bicycles are a reward for the effort each child, their families and their teachers put into their reading each day for a semester.” 

Brothers Alejandro and Armando earned their bikes for real reading improvements. Their dad, Aliststair Pereira, notes that their family is not lacking in resources. The Pereiras usually adopt another family in the community during the holiday season, he said.

“For me, it means a lot for my boys to have these bikes. They are learning that they are receiving something for working hard,” Mr. Pereira said.

“They signed a reading contract and they earned their bikes. That’s a higher and best value I see in these two bikes.”

To learn more about Cycle, please visit:


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