Millions of Books


We’re joining McDonald’s to kick the year off with books! From January 9-22, McDonald’s will offer one of four favorite children’s books in every Happy Meal for over 17 million books for children and families across the country. Through a new collaboration with HarperCollins Children’s Books, kids and families will be able to enjoy four classic titles. Each book comes with a fun activity designed just for this special promotion.

On top of that, McDonald’s is giving 100,000 Happy Meal books to bring the joy of reading to kids in RIF programs that don’t have easy access to books. We’re feeling pretty happy about that!

Even lunchtime can become a fun learning opportunity for young children. Our President and CEO, Carol H. Rasco explained, “we need to reach families where they are,” and McDonald’s is a comfortable atmosphere for many families. “Parents are there to talk and laugh and have fun with their children,” and this month they can do so with some our of favorite children’s books.

Here are the books that will be in Happy Meals nationwide this month:

If_you_Give_a_Mouse_a_Cookie If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond (illustrator): Ever wondered what happens if you give a mouse a cookie? This  circular story of a boy and an insatiable mouse will delight any child!
 bignate Big Nate: In a Class by Himself (abridged) by Lincoln Pierce: Ever had a day that didn’t go your way? While’s Nate’s bad day takes place in middle school, even the youngest children will laugh through the book.
petethecat Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean: Pete the Cat’s not feeling so great when he wakes up… until a pair of magic sunglasses shows him how to find his good mood and do the same for his friends.
stanley Flat Stanley Goes Camping by Jess Brown, Macky Pamintuan (illustrator): Take a trip to remember with Flat Stanley! When he and his little brother decide to make their own fun on their family camping trip, they find themselves in the middle of more adventure than they’d bargained for!

posted by

No comments

A Birthday Wish


sebastianRIFWhile many of us are caught up in closing out the year, I was recently impressed by a boy who’s already looking forward to the next one. A few weeks ago, Sebastian contacted us with an idea. In January, he’ll turn six. “This year, instead of getting birthday presents,” he told us, “I want to help other kids read.”

Sebastian’s an avid reader, currently hooked on the Magic Tree House adventure series, and he wants to help us give books to the kids who need them most. He may only be five going on six, but he loves reading and knows the joy it will bring to children just like him.

For me, Sebastian’s birthday wish was a reminder that each of us has the power to make a difference. Please join me and Sebastian this holiday season by supporting RIF’s work to get books to more kids who need them.

posted by

No comments

Kappa Cheer


kkg1The RIF office is full of holiday spirit as we’re all enjoying this time of giving thanks and giving back. One thing we’re especially thankful for this holiday season? Our 10-year partnership with Kappa Kappa Gamma and their tireless work to give the gift of reading to children in need nationwide. In 2014 alone, Kappas donated more than $83,000 to RIF, putting more than 33,000 books into the hands of children who otherwise would not have a book to call their own. These Kappa women support the RIF mission through countless local efforts to inspire children and raise funds for new books.

A few months ago, the Kappa chapter at the University of Iowa got wind of our recently launched Kappa-inspired resources — featuring books and activities centered around Kappa themes like friendship and community service, and featuring Kappa symbols like the owl — and sprang into action, ordering titles for the children they’d be serving at their upcoming Reading Is Key event.

Last month, they hosted a wonderful literacy celebration at the Melrose Daycare in Iowa City where their members spent time with children sharing the importance of reading and encouraging family reading time at home. In small groups, the Kappas and children read some of the great RIF books they brought with them. The best part? Each child got to take a RIF book home to own and keep! The chapter fundraised for the initiative through their Kappa Kones event earlier in the year, which featured free ice cream, face painting, and balloons for Iowa City children, with all donation proceeds going to the purchase of RIF books.

Also a roaring success, the Northern Virginia Alumnae Association of Kappa Kappa Gamma recently held their first ever Holiday Marketplace with proceeds to benefit RIF.  With over 15 vendors and a raffle for door prizes, they had a great turnout for this festive afternoon and raised enough money to help us provide more than 430 books to children in need! On tap next for this group is their February Reading Is Key event where they’ll continue their efforts to spread the love of reading to underserved children in their community.

We are so thankful for great partners in our literacy mission and appreciate our Kappa friends near and far for all of the wonderful ways they support RIF! Join Kappas across the country in supporting RIF this holiday season. When you make a gift to RIF by December 31, you donation will be matched up to $115,000.

posted by

No comments

Our Book Traditions


C.Rasco_0047-5x7A recent survey found that only one in three parents reads bedtime stories with their children every night. This figure was astonishing to me, not only as the president and CEO of the largest children’s literacy nonprofit, but also as a mother and grandmother who has built enduring family traditions around books.

Every December, my daughter sets up her family Christmas tree and the first items placed underneath it are dozens of holiday books acquired starting in her childhood. Each story holds memories from every year we’ve celebrated together, and the collection continues to grow as I add new books for my grandchildren under the tree. And following the additional tradition of my grandparents and parents, each child in my family receives at least one book every Christmas, one chosen oh so carefully for the recipient.

While I love customs of all kinds, I also know that the reality for too many children is that book traditions like ours remain out of reach. Research shows that literacy among our nation’s youngest readers is strikingly low. The fact is, many families in poverty have no books in their homes at all.

But we can change that. At RIF, every day we are working to bring books and high-quality literacy support to the children who need it most. We go through thousands of children’s books every year to find the ones that will be the most engaging and educational for young children. Then we make sure they’re reaching the children who most need the kinds of materials that will not only build their basic skills, but motivate them to dream beyond what they’ve seen and write their own best futures. Since 1966, we’ve given over 412 million books to more than 40 million children, and with your help we will continue to inspire the next generation of readers.

You can start your own family traditions by passing down holiday-themed books that represent your culture and others, or simply by giving books to those in need. Encourage kids to put down their video game controllers and TV remotes down for an evening in favor of a family read-aloud. For me, there is nothing more sentimental than seeing my grandson flip through the pages of a book that I once held in my hands and passed down to his mother.

Three books in particular have become a beloved part of my tradition, and reading these stories is a fun and meaningful experience for me and my grandchildren every year.


The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long – This book might be my favorite rendition of this familiar song with its dazzling illustrations, and interesting facts and imagery.
 cranberryxmas Cranberry Christmas by Wende Devlin, Harry Devlin (illustrator) – Get ready for some fun with a skating pond and an old sea captain named Mr. Whiskers. There’s even a cranberry cookie recipe in the back!
smellofxmas The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry, J.P. Miller (illustrator) – Little Bear sniffs a variety of Christmas scents in this scented  story, and readers can scratch and sniff their way through the tale, too.

Every child deserves memorable reading experiences and books to cherish as they grow up. I hope that this holiday season, and throughout the New Year, we will be able to reach even more children so more families can enjoy reading together. Help us make that possible. Make books – and spreading the joy of reading – part of your family tradition.

Happy holidays,


posted by

No comments

Going Polar


We’re delighted to feature R. Gregory Christie’s “Polar Connection” on our 2014 holiday card. Christie has been working as an illustrator for over 20 years, and has collaborated with clients like The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times… and now RIF! He is a two time recipient of New York Times’ 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year Award, and a three time winner of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award in Illustration, among others. Two of Christie’s beautiful books, It Jes’ Happened by Don Tate and Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom by Steven Sellers Lapham and Eugene Walton, have been featured in our 2013 Multicultural Book Collection.

Well, Greg’s holiday polar bear art reading got us thinking: let’s read about polar bears! Here are some of our favorites:

polar_bear_night Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson, Stephen Savage (illustrator) – Simple, near-monochromatic linocut illustrations set the stage for a polar bear’s adventure after waking up to a starlit world of ice and sea.
 polar_bear_morning Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson, Steven Savage (illustrator) – In the sequel to “Polar Bear Night,” we join the polar bear as she starts her day and makes her first friend.
Immi's_Gift Immi’s Gift by Karin Littlewood – Immi’s having a cold, lonely winter until she finds a tiny red bird and other magical charms while fishing. When her adorned igloo draws visitors from across the icy expanse, she decides to send out some magic of her own.
kalis_story Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis, John Gomes (photographer) – Follow the true story of polar bear cub Kali, from his rescue in an Inupiat village to his new home at the Brooklyn Zoo.
can_i_come_too Can I Come Too? by Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley  – A tiny mouse goes in search of the biggest creature in the world, and other animals become curious, too. Is it a kingfisher? A polar bear? Or something else?


posted by

No comments

Cross This Off


boy-give-read-inspire-eappealSimplify your holiday shopping by focusing on the gifts that stay with us: curiosity, imagination, the joy of reading. For the book lover on your list, for your child’s favorite teacher, for the grandparent that brought you books and taught you to love reading, a gift to RIF in their honor will help give books to the children who need them most.

Every book contains a world that can be a place for exploration and for comfort. Help us open up new worlds to children across the country, and get them ready for greater adventures in the year to come.

The joy of reading is a gift that never gets old. This season, spread the holiday spirit by giving a gift in honor of a friend or family member. When you give before December 31, your gift will be matched up to $115,000 for double the cheer.

posted by

No comments

Celebrating 2014


Thanks to all of you Book People, we’re happy to conclude another successful year, and gear up for our next one! By putting nearly 2 million books into the hands of the children who need them most, this year we’ve given more kids the keys to unlocking their brightest futures.

Innovative Approaches: We have just now concluded the post-testing on a two-year research study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, to improve literacy in high-need school districts by boosting children’s reading achievement over the summer. Through the study, which emphasizes science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics through children’s literature, we’ve given over 760,000 books for impact to 33,000 second-, third-, and fourth-grade students in 173 schools across 16 states. And we’re collecting inspiring stories from teachers and students who are finding even more creative ways to use our books and literacy resources, from farming fun in Kentucky to beach bumming with books in North Carolina. We can’t wait to share even more stories and findings from our research in the coming year!

Power Partner: 2014 marked the 11th year of our partnership with Macy’s and our summer Be Book Smart campaign. Over the past 11 years, Macy’s customers and associates have contributed more than 10 million books for children in need, and this summer alone raised $2.6 million to go toward books for children in underserved communities.

Multicultural Movement: After releasing our seventh annual Multicultural Book Collection this year, we were delighted to see the movement catch even more STEAM with #WeNeedDiverseBooks in May.

A Seuss-y Soiree: Thanks to our many friends and supporters, our 2014 THE CAT IN THE HAT gala raised more than $600,000 in unrestricted funds.

Book Basics: True to RIF’s roots, this year we continued our classic book distributions, in which children are given the chance to select the books of their choosing to read and to keep. Some highlights from this years’ events included ZooFiesta at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC, where we gave away books and activities with State Farm; our visit to Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County, Maryland, serving military families; and the special students we met through the Boys and Girls Club in Dagsboro, Delaware.

Inspired Individuals: The hundreds of thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to organizing successful book distributions and finding new ways to get kids excited about reading are truly the backbone of RIF. This year, we honored three Volunteers of the Year, whose communities were thrilled to recognize their accomplishments. We were proud to see those same volunteers profiled as part of American Graduate Day, a broadcast highlighting how community organizations can keep kids on the path to graduation.

posted by

No comments

Frosty Friends


This year for the holidays, invite some classic characters into your home. Have the kids in your life met Mr. Tumnus, who grows so tired of Narnia’s everlasting winter? Have you warned them about the Cat in the Hat’s penchant for pink snow? Here are our picks for embracing winter with books:

SnowyDayKeats The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – As a child, how exciting is it to wait for the first flake of winter? Join Peter as he explores his neighborhood after the first snowfall of the season with Ezra Keats’ Caldecott Award-winning illustrations.
 PopperCover Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, Robert Lawson (illustrator) – Mr. Popper is a house painter who dreams of bigger adventures until his routine is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a penguin who will change his life in ways he couldn’t have dreamed.
Little_Red_Riding_Hood Little Red Riding Hood – Find your favorite contemporary version or grab a Grimm’s copy for a classic scare and a good excuse to snuggle up under a soft, red blanket.
catinthehatcomesback The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss – If your little one knows the Cat in the Hat, they can guess that we won’t be much help clearing away snow while Mother is out… but he will be a lot of fun!
grinch How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – For many children, it will be shocking to learn that anyone could hate such a cheerful holiday! Introduce your child to the Whos of Whoville and watch them find out for the first time whether the Grinch will succeed with with his dastardly plan.
chroniclesnarnia The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator) – Children will be horrified to meet the White Witch, the villainess who rules Narnia through 100 years of deep winter. When the snow finally melts, the message of hope gets even stronger when kids learn there are six more books in the series to read fall in love with!

posted by

No comments


For #GivingTuesday, give back with books. Join us in bringing the joy of reading to the children who need it most.

posted by

No comments

The Reading Bond


Samantha Vamos — RIF friend, children’s picture book author, and parent — guest blogs about the bond reading creates between parent and child.

SamVamosAs a parent and children’s picture book author, I read children’s books every day. I read picture books and chapter books to improve my writing and keep current with what is being published, but also because I truly enjoy reading them. Most importantly, however, I read because of the bond that reading has created with my son.

From the beginning of his life, words have enveloped him. While he was in my belly and merely a few weeks from birth, I sometimes read aloud to him. When I read silently to myself, I imagined the words swirling around my brain flowing through my blood stream and into his, our lives connected. After he was born, when he was only a few days old, it didn’t matter to me if I read a children’s book or my husband read The New Yorker or Sports Illustrated to our son. I just wanted him to hear our voices articulating words over and over again.

My son is now seven and although he reads books on his own, we continue to read together each day. Reading to and with my son is one of my favorite rituals and a simple pleasure we share. I look forward to the moment when we become immersed in a story, his attention fully engaged. My playful, active son winds down, enticed by hearing about a farmer who photographs snow crystals, finding no two alike; a princess who uses her intellect to defeat a fire-breathing dragon; “star-bellied Sneetches” and “plain-bellied Sneetches”; a cane-carrying mouse that retrieves his mother’s wedding ring from a bathtub drain; the friendship between a librarian and a library lion; a farm maiden, farmer, and five farm animals that stir a pot and create a surprise recipe together*; and so much more. The characters, topics, and plots are endless; invariably, comment or discussion ensues. My son often asks the meaning of words, and I hear him incorporate new words learned into his speech. A broad vocabulary helps him understand new and complex concepts and ideas.


Listening to stories contributes to the development of his imagination—life is so much richer when enhanced by creativity. Reading has also built his attention span and that’s a skill necessary for learning. At its core, reading is an opportunity for us to connect over words spoken and emotions evoked. Sometimes, in relation to a story, my son explores feelings or tells me something that occurred at school. I listen carefully, grateful that hearing a story resulted in unexpected revelations and disclosure.

Where do we read? Everywhere. My husband and I take turns reading to our son during part of meals. In his bedroom, we cozy up in a chair that I have deemed “our reading chair.” We read before sleep, on airplanes, and on the occasional bus trip. When we’re out for an excursion, I typically wear a backpack allowing me to carry not only crayons and paper but also a book. One afternoon as we waited for pizza at a restaurant, I began reading a book. When my son noticed a young girl in the booth next to us straining to hear, he urged, “Read louder, Mommy.” I did and shortly thereafter, with her parent’s encouragement, the young girl temporarily joined us in order to better see the illustrations. The company delighted my son. With two pages remaining, our pizza finally arrived, yet neither child lifted as much as a finger, preferring to wait to hear the story’s end.

Books in our home come from both libraries and stores. We visit the library almost every week—we typically have between five and fifteen library books scattered throughout our home. At the age of four and a half, my son was as overjoyed about obtaining his own library card as he was about receiving a new Thomas the Tank Engine train for his birthday. In fact, his excitement about the library card lasted far longer. The card is attached to a small, bungee cord; for quite some time, he proudly showed it to all his teachers and anyone who visited our home. Of course, the card was a sign of his independence and that held special meaning for him.  He can select books all by himself and his pride is evident when a book he chooses turns out to be one we especially like.

When we discover a book we love, we record the title as a reminder to purchase it. We celebrate with books as gifts for most if not all holidays. In our home, our son understands that Santa Claus, Cupid (for Valentine’s Day), the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all appreciate written requests for books (which has turned into terrific opportunities to practice writing). That is not to imply that toys, chocolate, jelly beans, or money are excluded from the latter-mentioned holidays, but books are important and included.

Birthdays are occasions for books as well. On my son’s first birthday, I began a tradition I intend to uphold all his life.  In addition to other gifts, I give him a book. Although the books I’ve selected are not necessarily age-appropriate, they are books I want him to have in his personal collection. On his first birthday, he received “The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. On his second birthday, I selected a childhood favorite of mine: “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” featuring the poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein. For his third and fourth birthdays, respectively, he received Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” and a hardback version of Brian Selznick’s highly illustrated novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” For his fifth birthday, I gave him L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100thAnniversary Edition.” For his sixth birthday, he received a box set of the seven paperback volumes of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. I inscribe each book with a note and the specific birthday that the book commemorates; then, I store the book in our son’s bookcase or on one of my bookshelves.

Even when my son enjoys reading on his own, I will continue to look for stories to read and share with him. I want to foster our reading bond as long as possible. My mother not only read chapter books to me when I was reading on my own but also created individual stories for my sister and me.  Before bedtime, my mother sat by my sister’s bed and, later, mine in order to share chapter installments. My sister’s story featured a ladybug and her children. My story concerned the adventures of a miniature fairy. Closing my eyes, listening to my mother’s soft voice, I imagined the fairy and her exploits.  After school, homework, dinner, and chores, hearing a story before falling asleep was a soothing, gentle way to enter the night. I cherish those memories and I know that experience sparked a desire that later grew into a passion. I began to dream about becoming an author. Eventually, I wrote stories and, many years later, I published one of them.

Now, when at school or library presentations for my children’s picture books, I enjoy telling children that I composed my first story at the age of three. For a few seconds, eyes widen in amazement until I clarify what really happened. At that age, my mother encouraged me to make up stories and tell them to her. Without influencing subject, grammar, or length, she typed the stories exactly as I told them. My first story, “The Red Hen” (circa 1967), is only several lines and rife with grammatical errors, yet the freedom to create, uninterrupted by correction, allowed my thoughts to flow. My confidence as a beginning storyteller began to build.

I have similarly encouraged my son to practice storytelling.  His first, formal attempt is titled “The Run Away Coconut” and consists of nine sentences. Whether storytelling becomes his passion is not important to me. I just want him to experience the process in a pleasurable, relaxed way just as he enjoys our reading together.

While I find our reading “connection” to be gratifying in and of itself, I also know that reading each day produces a substantial gift – that of literacy. It is well established that children who are read to are more likely to read earlier, stay in school, succeed in school, and pursue higher education, which has its own benefits and rewards.

As parents and caregivers, we are in a unique position to promote and support literacy. As I read with my child, I know I’m giving both him and myself intangible, lifelong gifts – a unique literary bond with memories that may be refreshed each time he reads a certain story; an aptitude for and interest in reading; and, most importantly, the knowledge that he can and will succeed – in school and, I believe, elsewhere in life.

Samantha R. Vamos is author of the 2010 Washington State Book Award Winner, Before You Were Here, Mi Amor (Viking Children’s Books, 2009, illustrated by Santiago Cohen) describing all the things one family does to welcome a new child into the world; The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge, February 1, 2011, illustrated by Rafael López) – a “House That Jack Built”– inspired tale in which five farm animals each contribute ingredients to the cazuela (“pot”) that the farm maiden stirs, and Alphabet Trucks (Charlesbridge, Fall 2013), a rhyming, alphabet book about twenty-six different trucks and how they serve their communities.

*The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrations by Michael Martchenko (Annick Press, 1980); Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrations by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998); The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1961); Stuart Little by E.B. White (Harper Trophy, 1945); Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrations by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006); and The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos with illustrations by Rafael López (Charlesbridge, February 1, 2011).

posted by

No comments