Reading Is Fundamental

Apr 07, 2017

Former RIF Kids Helping Inspire New RIF Kids

RIF’s efforts would be futile without the caring, hard-working volunteers who give their time and energy to impact local communities around the country. Their motivation goes beyond the distribution of a single book – they are eager to share a love of reading and ultimately increase the opportunities children have to read, learn and grow. One such RIF volunteer in Arizona, Patricia Heck, made such an incredible impact on the children she served that they came back to her as teenagers asking how they could help. In turn, they created Club RIF, a program that paired teens with elementary school students to provide mentorship, motivation and, of course, new books!  Almost three decades later, those Club RIF Alumni continue to help break the cycle of illiteracy and create tomorrow’s community of learners. Pat shared with us details from a recent reading celebration event at the St. Peter's Indian Mission School:

Our big distribution at St. Peter's Indian Mission on January 27th marked the 27th year of bringing former RIF kids to volunteer and distribute books at the Mission School. 

Over 30 volunteers worked together to plan an event to bring books to life for the students. Many volunteers were students from Chaparral High School and Arizona State University who had received RIF books during their childhoods and returned as volunteers to pay forward their book-love.




The volunteers kicked off the event with read-alouds and performed a dance to get the 300 pre-K to eighth-grade students excited.


Each student got to choose a brand new book to take home and personally decorate a bookmark that would help encourage their reading habits. To add even more fun to the celebration, Clifford the Big Red dog stopped by and chatted with the children as they had their faces painted! 


The students embraced the creative and festive mood by performing traditional Indian dances and even included the RIF volunteers in a Friendship Dance!


The distribution was a magical and wonderful cultural exchange that truly exhibited the lasting influence Reading Is Fundamental can have on an individual’s life and how it can go on to impact the lives of the next generation of readers. img_1028 




This story from Patricia Heck and the members of Club RIF is just one small look into the larger work that RIF’s network contributes to their communities every day. Find out how you can make a difference by getting involved with RIF today:  

Mar 29, 2017

The Power of Storytelling

This guest blog was provided by actor, director, author and lifelong literacy advocate, LeVar Burton to inspire the next generation of readers during National Reading Month! 

My love of literacy, as is probably the case for many of you reading this, began with my mother. I could have easily fallen through the cracks and ended up as one of the millions of children who fall behind in reading, never to catch back up to their peers. I was the child of a single mother and a latchkey kid, but in my mother’s house reading was not an option – nor was it a requirement; rather, it was a part of everyday life. As an English teacher, my mother knew the importance of not only reading to me, but in front of me – providing an example and a set of incredible footsteps in which I follow. 

I am the man that I am because she is the woman that she is. I couldn’t have imagined the lasting impact a television program could have on the literacy community. The adults who watched “Reading Rainbow” as kids credit it with imparting a lifelong love of reading. These adults are now sharing the gift of reading with their own children. The circle continues. 

But our work is not done. Six out of 10 children from low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes. The need to provide these children with the resources required to inspire a love of learning has never been more important. I am passionate about engaging these young readers and continue to work toward my vision of literacy for every child, everywhere.

All of my work in literacy is in honor of my mom, Erma Gene Christian.  I’m sure you all have a mom or dad, a teacher, an author or illustrator – someone – that inspired you to become an advocate for literacy. It will take us all to inspire the next generation of readers. I encourage you to visit and help continue to ensure that reading is an exciting part of every child’s life.   

Mar 06, 2017

Marching into National Reading Month

RIF teamed up with actor, director, author and lifelong literacy advocate, LeVar Burton to inspire the next generation of readers during National Reading Month! There were awards, book distributions, read alouds, rhinos and more!

Photo credit:  Paul Morigi/AP Images for Reading Is Fundamental

This month-long celebration of reading kicked with RIF’s Championing Children’s Literacy event the night before on February 28th. During the event, LeVar was presented with the RIF 2017 Literacy Champion Award in honor of his incredible work to engage all children in the power of literacy. RIF’s Literacy Champion Award recognizes the remarkable contributions of individuals in the field of children’s literacy and the advancement of RIF’s mission.

The support of adults is great, but inspiring children to read is what RIF is all about! We held a book distribution event at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C. on March 1st where LeVar read his children’s book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and author Kitty Kelley discussed her first children’s book, Martin’s Dream Day about Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington and his famous speech.

Photo credit:  Paul Morigi/AP Images for Reading Is Fundamental

RIF and LeVar also partnering with the National Education Association (NEA) to distribute 450 books to children on Read Across America Day and discussed the need to address the literacy crisis along with the importance of diverse reading material at the NEA’s Roundtable on Literacy in the United States.

National Reading Month shines a spotlight on the important work we do every day of the year – distributing new, free books and literacy services to the kids and families who need them most. We believe that every child deserves a story to carry around for a lifetime and you can help provide more stories and empower the next generation of readers by donating to Reading Is Fundamental today

Mar 02, 2017

5 Ways to Keep the Magic in Your Nightly Storytime

This guest blog was provided by Andra Abramson, Studios Editor at Cricket Media

Art by Bryn Barnard from the January 2014 issue of LADYBUG.

Whatever your daily schedule is like, by the time the kids’ bedtime rolls around, no doubt you are tired and your patience is at an all-time low. No wonder it’s easy to get caught in a nightly reading rut where the same tired stories are read in the same tired tone of voice and you lose that magic that happens when a story transports you and your kids to a whole new world. National Reading Month (also known as March) could be just the kick in the pants you need to bring back the magic to your family’s story time routine.

Here are a few easy tips for keeping the magic in your nightly reading time.

  1. Whatever book your child chooses, don’t read the last page of the story. Instead make up your own ending. If your child asks for the same story again, have them make up a different ending. Each time you read, the story could end happily, tragically, humorously, with a bang, or any other way your family thinks it should. Bonus: Have someone write down the different endings your family comes up with and create your own “choose your own ending” book based on that story.
  2. Encourage each of your children to make up an additional character who might appear in the book. What would the character’s name be? What part would they play in the story?
  3. Do the Mannequin Challenge. For each page of the book, have your children hold a different pose while you read. See if they can hold the pose for the whole page. You can adjust the difficulty by reading faster or slower or by trying to make them laugh so that they move.
  4. Take the Reading Without Walls Challenge. This challenge encourages kids to read about a character to doesn’t look or live like you do, about a topic you don’t know much about, or in a format you don’t usually read for fun, such as graphic novel, a magazine, or poetry. National Reading Month would be a great time to tackle the Reading Without Walls Challenge as a family.
  5. Read a different book every night. If your child always picks the same book, this month you can encourage them to read something different each time. You can take the stress out of finding a new story each night with Cricket Media’s National Reading Month calendar. This new tool will provide your family with a different short story or article each day for the entire month of March. 

Reading to your kids should feel like a joy, not a chore. Let National Reading Month be the inspiration you need to take your nightly story time from blah to breathtaking.

Cricket.Andra A

Andra Abramson is a children’s book and magazine author and editor who grew up reading the amazing short stories in Cricket Magazine. In her spare time, she teaches writing to kids in the Washington, DC area.

Cricket Media is the publisher of 11 award-winning magazines for kids ages toddler to teen, including BABYBUG®,LADYBUGCRICKET®MUSE®COBBLESTONEFACESDIG INTO HISTORY®CLICK®CICADA®ASK®, and  SPIDER®

Feb 28, 2017

Amazing Women in History

There’s never a bad time to read about powerful ladies, but now is a particularly perfect moment in time to bust open stories of women who’ve broken down barriers. March is Women's History Month, making it the perfect excuse to celebrate the powerful women in your life!

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

by Katheryn Russell-Brown, Illustrated by Frank Morrison, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book 

Ever since she was a little girl, Melba Doretta Liston loved music. One day, her momma bought her a big, shiny trombone—and the rest is history! This book tells the true story of one of the most famous female jazz musicians ever. 

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

by S.D. Nelson

Born in 1839, Buffalo Bird Girl, Waheenee, was a member of the Hidatsa tribe of the Great Plains. This story is about her life, including where she lived, her family life, her daily chores, her friends, and the dangers she faced.

Amelia to Zora: Twenty Six Women Who Changed the World

Amelia to Zora: Twenty Six Women Who Changed the World

by Cynthia Chin-Lee Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

Twenty-six amazing women; twenty-six amazing stories. From Amelia Earhart, pilot and adventurer, to Zora Neal Hurston, writer and anthropologist, learn about the hardships and triumphs that inspired each woman to change the world around her. 

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

by Michelle Markel Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This book tells the exciting true story of Clara Lemlich, a brave young woman who stood up for the rights of female factory workers when no one else would. 

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

by Ann Malaspina Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Meet Alice Coachman, whose parents think she needs to act more like a lady. Alice doesn’t give up running and jumping, though, and eventually becomes the first African-American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics. 

Through Georgia's Eyes

Through Georgia's Eyes

by Rachel Rodriguez  Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

A simplistic look into the life of Georgia O’Keefe. From her childhood on a farm, art school in the city to a life in New Mexico follow Georgia on her path to find peace within herself and her paintings.