Reading Is Fundamental

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Jan 18, 2017

A look back on 2016

Thanks to you, we celebrated RIF’s 50th anniversary, expanded our partnerships, paired up with celebrities, impacted over 1,400 communities and most importantly helped inspire millions of new RIF kids to become lifelong readers. Here are just a few of our favorite stories!

Power of Partnerships

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This year we paired up with amazing companies to put new books into the hands of children who need them most. For the 13th year, Macy’s and its customers showed a commitment to literacy and RIF kids nationwide with a $1.7 million donation through their annual Thanks For Sharing campaign. Thanks to their generous support this year, over 325,000 children in 55 different communities were able to add a brand new book to their growing home libraries. Scholastic continues to show their commitment to literacy by partnering with RIF donating 50,000 books to bring new stories and adventures to kids in 2017. And UGI Utilities, Inc. proudly celebrated 25 years of bringing books and literacy activities to children across Pennsylvania through their partnership with RIF by distributing over 100,000 books to almost 33,000 kids, such as one special distribution which took place in the State Capital Building where they presented RIF with the Energy to Do More award!

Celebrations!

What would a 50th anniversary be without a party… or two… or three!? For this milestone, we went back to where it all began. State Farm presented RIF’s 50th birthday party at the site of one of our very first RIF programs, Amidon-Bowen elementary school in Washington, DC! Joined by our celebrity friends Jordin Sparks, Tray Chaney, and Tara Lazar, we kicked off our 50th year with music, read-alouds, book distribution and a $10,000 gift from State Farm to Amidon-Bowen to help stock the shelves in their school library. Actress Elizabeth Banks also stopped by this year with the National Endowment for the Humanities to help celebrate RIF’s donation of 3,000 new books to the new library at Moten Elementary School. Of course, we couldn’t leave our RIF families out of the celebrations! Pitney Bowes and the Pitney Bowes Foundation hosted a Family Literacy Night at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT where more than 1,700 books and motivational activities were distributed to local families in need. Thanks to partners and supporters like these, we’ve been able to help over 40 million children celebrate book ownership over the past 50 years and will be able to continue to offer solutions that address the literacy crisis in communities across the U.S.

Spread the News

RIF worked to highlight the importance – and fun! – of literacy in 2016. In June RIF unveiled READ, a whimsical new public service announcement (PSA), designed to encourage everyone to discover the inspiration and imagination that happens when adults read to children. This PSA, gifted to RIF by Timber in honor of our 50th Anniversary, takes viewers on adventures built with cereal and bridges but found within the simple pages of a book. In September, RIF joined 25 other like-minded non-profit organizations during American Graduate Day on PBS to lend a voice to the daylong call-to-action to increase graduation rates. And in December, we provided tips and tools to keep kids engaged in learning over the winter break and beyond in USA Today’s Literacy in America issue.

But Most Importantly: Books!

RIF’s 50th anniversary would not have been complete without the distribution of books to children who need them most. The actions you took as RIF partners, volunteers and supporters helped us give 2.6 million more books – and smiles – to children throughout the country. We also brought 1.5 million free digital libraries into homes across the U.S. through a partnership with ustyme. Together, we’ve given millions of books to kids but there is still more work to be done. As we look forward to this coming year and continuing our work as a champion for children’s literacy, we are excited to work together to ensure every child has the opportunity to own a book, learn how to read and obtain the fundamental building blocks needed to achieve their highest potential.

Jan 04, 2017

Resolve to be a Literacy Champion in 2017

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, we always have a few focused on our own reading habits. We tell ourselves that this year we are going to start a book club, read that book we skipped in high school, or (finally) get through Anna Karenina. But, we know that the most important reading that can be done is that which is shared with a child. To help you be the Literacy Champion in your family and encourage your child’s literacy skills and continued love of learning through 2017, we’ve compiled some of our favorite reading resolutions: 

  • I resolve… to clean out the box of board books in the attic that my child “outgrew” and decide which ones we will keep and which will be donated to the library or a family friend so they can be enjoyed by new children.
  • I resolve… to show my child that my library card is the most valuable thing in my wallet. Not only because of the books we can borrow, but because of the activities and community events of which we can be a part.
  • I resolve… that if my child comes home, raving about a book that was read at school, I will find that book and read it myself so we can have excited conversations about it together.
  • I resolve… to read a book with my child that exposes them to another culture, family structure, or struggle that will allow us to expand our empathy and understanding of the world.
  • I resolve… to accept that there are certain children’s literature classics that my child may never enjoy. And when they pick up another mass-market paperback about superheroes, that’s okay because they are more likely to read books they are interested in than ones that are forced upon them.
  • I resolve… to not criticize any book that my child loves. Because, while I might be sick of reading about fire trucks or think that the princess-fairy doesn’t break far enough away from gender stereotypes, no good comes from an adult rolling their eyes and implying that my child’s choices aren’t important.
  • I resolve… to never, ever take Where the Wild Things Are or Iggy Peck, Architect off the bookshelf.
  • I resolve… to not letting my kid watch any Harry Potter movie until the book has been read first (this also goes for The Hunger Games, The Little Prince, or any book we could bond over).
  • I resolve… to encourage my child to read out loud to me more often (and to express how proud I am that the little baby I used to hold can now read a whole book).

We know there are so many more reading resolutions to be made and that is why RIF continues to put new books and reading materials in the hands of children across the country who need them. Check out our literacy activities and resources to encourage your inner Literacy Champion all year long.  

Jan 03, 2017

Thank you for this last year

Last year, I had so many stories to share with my family. Not only nightly bedtime stories with my little one (this may, unfortunately, be the last year before she decides she is too old for that treasured time with me), but also dinner table tales about my day. The continued excitement I experience by watching children pick out their new RIF books, or talking with teachers about the literacy activities RIF provides to their classrooms, or meeting with volunteers who embody the heart and soul of RIF gave me so many opportunities to tell my kids about the dedicated people that make a real difference in our commitment to a literate America.

As we wrap up such a giving and thankful time of year, I want to personally thank all of you for your commitment to Reading Is Fundamental throughout 2016.  It was an incredible year for the organization to say the least – largely due to your continued support and generosity. With a multitude of book distributions, programs and literacy-focused events throughout the year, we have been able to touch more lives, impact more children, and engage communities in creating literacy solutions – great reminders to the RIF family how good it feels to give back and help others. Because of dedicated supporters and volunteers like you, we were able to provide over 2.6 million brand new stories and adventures to children in need!

Thank you for being a part of this exciting and impactful journey with me.  Together in the New Year we’ll create even more successful stories and take another step toward creating a fully literate America.

From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

--Alicia Levi

Dec 13, 2016

What does a RIF book mean to a child?

While packing to move, Ketan found a well-read copy of The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key among the stacks of books on his floor. He smiled at his wife, Sangita, and opened the book to show her a note his 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Limbaugh, had written in it for him. Ketan is now an Electrical Engineer with a master's degree from MIT but when Mrs. Limbaugh wrote that note, he was just a student in Missouri receiving a new book from Reading Is Fundamental. After many moves and many other books, Ketan and Sangita, who was also a RIF kid, decided that this particular book was worth carrying around for a few more decades and packed it away once more.

Why did they decide to keep it? Because it was his. The Forgotten Door was one of the first books Ketan actually owned rather than borrowed from the library. Sangita and Ketan believe strongly in literacy and can point to the impact it’s had on their lives.

“We both came from less fortunate backgrounds and RIF opened the door to a whole new world of reading for both of us. We believe that literacy leads to freedom, opportunity, and success.” Sangita recently told RIF 

From a student receiving his very own book for the first time to an MIT graduate, one book can begin to change a person’s life. Ketan’s story is just one of the 40 million RIF has created over the last 50 years.  We believe that every child deserves a story like this to carry around for a lifetime.  Help provide more stories and empower the next generation of readers by donating to Reading Is Fundamental today

Dec 08, 2016

A Thank You Gift that Gives Back

Finding a way to say “Thank You” for the wisdom that someone has given to you and your community can be difficult. After a career spanning 20 years at the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, Frank Mancini was stepping down as President and CEO, and his colleagues were looking for the right way to express their gratitude. Rather than a gift that might go unused or flowers that would wilt, they decided to donate to Reading Is Fundamental in his honor.

Mr. Mancini had a rule that books would always be a part of the gifts he gave to his three sons. His dedication to the next generation of readers started with his own family, but extended to his support of Reading Is Fundamental and influenced the people around him to generate larger impact. If you know someone like Frank Mancini consider following his rule and include books with all your gifts this year. If the Frank Mancini in your life is hard to shop for, donate to Reading Is Fundamental in their honor and let them know you’ve been inspired by them to help children in need experience the joy of reading.