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Thinking Outside the Book

RIF’s Rapid Response to Support 150,000 Children

When it comes to COVID-19 and quarantine, it’s clear that every aspect of our daily lives has changed. This is especially true when it comes to the education system in the US.

With short notice, schools and teachers had to rapidly change the way they do their work by starting distance learning, supplying children with laptops and internet access, and setting up meal distribution centers to provide students with lunch and other basic necessities. At Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), we’ve also had to be creative and adapt our approach. Much of RIF’s work normally takes place in schools where book celebrations allow kids to browse tables and tables of exciting books to choose and take home as their own. With schools closed and book celebrations off-limits, RIF had one important question: how do we continue getting books to kids?

It took the creative minds at RIF only a few days to think “outside the book” and generate a plan for getting books in the hands of children around the U.S. The team came together, in collaboration with corporate and foundation partners and school districts, to leverage meal distribution centers as a new book resource.

One example of meeting the need came with a school district in Lancaster, PA, which had a goal of distributing books to all 5,400 of its students before the school year concluded. With a very limited time frame remaining, the RIF team, with the help of longstanding corporate partner UGI Utilities who has supported RIF since 1991, worked diligently to fulfill this request. Alicia Levi, RIF President & CEO, personally recruited her family, renting a large truck and driving pallets with 10,800 books through three states to reach Lancaster. She arrived just in time for every kindergarten through 5th grade student in the district to take home books for the summer! She says, “I have shared with the team often that I believe RIF’s mission is in line with this moment. This effort, to reach thousands of at-risk children with RIF books, speaks to the heart of our mission and our team.“


Across Lancaster and other cities, RIF’s rapid response to COVID-19 has supported the distribution of 81,500 books to nearly 150,000 children across the country, including more than 50,000 books at meal distribution centers alone. RIF’s ability to reimagine the way books are distributed to children reminds us that literacy is critical no matter where or how children learn.

Please help us continue our mission to get books in the hands of children by supporting RIF: