It’s Groundhog Day, but don’t be surprised if the groundhog pops out holding a book.
That’s because it’s also World Read Aloud Day, a global initiative to inspire youth literacy.
“A non-profit called Lit World started it several years ago and now over 173 countries across the world participate,” Reading is Fundamental President and CEO Alicia Levi told WTOP. “It’s really all about celebrating the power of reading and the sharing of stories. … When the world celebrates on a day to read along, we are thrilled to participate.”
Reading is Fundamental — also known as RIF — is a D.C. organization founded in 1966 by Margaret McNamara, the wife of former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
“RIF celebrates Read Aloud Day every day because we know that reading aloud models good reading behavior for emerging readers,” Levi said. “It builds foundational reading knowledge through things as simple as turning a page, it builds background knowledge and it helps children develop a rich vocabulary. These are such critical skills.”
RIF has created the online portal Literacy Central featuring celebrity read-alouds.
“My personal favorite is by the late great Betty White [who] reads a story about animals,” Levi said. “We’ve partnered with wonderful children’s authors, including LeVar Burton, the wonderful children’s literacy advocate. … My daughter loves Chris Pine.”
There is also a call-to-action, Rally to Read, asking kids to pledge to read 100 books.
“We wanted to create some incentive for students,” Levi said. “We encouraged them to take a pledge [and] say, ‘Yeah, I’ll read 100 books.’ … 65% of children entering fourth grade are not reading proficiently — and the pandemic has exacerbated those tragic numbers. This generation of readers will suffer greatly as they try to catch up.”
There’s also a sweepstakes to donate 100 books to 100 school libraries.
“We’re giving 10,000 books away,” Levi said. “For all those that entered, we are super excited because we’ll be celebrating [the winners] with a podcast on March 2, which is another exciting reading celebration day: Read Across America Day.”
In the end, there is no better cause than inspiring children to read.
“Reading is Fundamental has done amazing work and distributed hundreds of millions of books and literacy resources to over 100 million children in this country,” Levi said. “This has been RIF’s mission for over 55 years. I am beyond proud to carry that on and work until we ensure that every child in this country has the opportunities that reading provides.”