Joint Base Andrews


Reading Fun Photo Recap

On Thursday, October 23, several members of RIF HQ attended a very special Reading Celebration at Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a short drive away from our DC offices.


“It’s RIF – I know RIF!”

“Is Kareem here?”

“I know who Kareem is. He’s an author!”

Finishing their after-school snacks and then filing into the gym past tables of books, most of the kids at Joint Base Andrews had some idea of what they were in for. Many remembered our reading event last year with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, award-winning author and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.


RIF’s Vice President of Literacy Services Dr. Judy Cheatham kicked off the event and got the kids pumped up to meet not just one, but TWO famous people! Our special guests for the event were celebrated author Cynthia Leitich Smith and renowned illustrator R. Gregory Christie.


Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author of fiction for children and young adults. Her story Jingle Dancer, about a young Muscogee (Creek) girl who wants to honor family tradition by dancing at the next powwow, was featured in our 2011 Multicultural Book Collection and continues to be one of our favorites!

In addition to books like Jingle Dancer and Indian Shoes, in which she tells the stories of modern children and families with Native American heritage, Cyn loves to write all kinds of funny and fantastical fiction (and yes, that sometimes includes werewolves!).


With Cynthia, herself a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law, the kids learned about all different kinds of storytelling: telling stories about what you know – your own life, where you grew up, and the people around you; stories about wonderful made-up things, like superheroes in comic books or supernatural creatures; even stories in a courtroom, where lawyers present two different versions of one tale.


After speaking with Cynthia, the kids heard from Gregory, who showed them new ways to tell a story.


Greg’s first question to the kids was whether any of them liked reading. One enthusiastic girl shouted, “I love to read! I was born to read!” – just the kind of answer we at RIF LOVE to hear!

Andrews7R. Gregory Christie may be a self-proclaimed shy guy who used drawing instead of talking as a way to express himself as a young boy, but he had every child jumping to answer his questions and contribute to their collective illustration.

What started as a drawing of a rainbow became a pot of rainbow-colored gold on a boat heading to a distant land. When asked, “How much money do you have?” by one curious youngster, Greg didn’t hesitate to answer: “All the money in that pot of gold!”

Greg has illustrated over 50 books, and collaborated with clients like The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Kennedy Center, to name a few. He operates a children’s bookstore, where he holds workshops and classes and encourages children and adults to express themselves through drawing and painting. He’s traveled the world doing art, and made sure to teach the kids at Andrews some important geography. Particularly, the capital of Malaysia… do you know what it is?


Kuala Lumpur.


After getting to know Greg and Cynthia, all of the kids selected one book by each of them to take home and keep for themselves. The books were Jingle Dancer and Indian Shoes, written by Cynthia Leitich Smith, and It Jes’ Happened and Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (and featured in our 2013 Multicultural Booklist). They also picked up our activity sheets to get the most out of each book, along with a RIF bookmark, bracelet, and backpack to keep their books safe and clean.

We had a blast with Gregory, Cynthia, and the kids at Andrews – and looks like they did, too!



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Trick or READ!


Next to the candy, the fun of Halloween is all in dressing up. For kids and grown-ups alike, Halloween is a day to try on a different or future life—or simply get goofy. Here are some ideas for easy costumes inspired by great kids’ books. Read the book before making the costume to familiarize your child with the story line and get them excited; then, read it again in character for the full experience.


Halloweenblog1-250 The Day the Crayons Quit

You’ll need: Solid-colored matching shirt and pants, black felt, scissors, party hat

Is your little one a happy green or a brilliant yellow? Let her express herself just as the crayons do in The Day the Crayons Quit. Use black felt to make the crayon name as well as black shirt and pant cuffs with the trademark crayon squiggle. A matching party hat tops off the look. Get a whole group together for your own box of crayons!
 Halloweenblog2-rosie Rosie Revere, Engineer

You’ll need: White shirt and tights, a red and black striped skirt, red shoes, red bandanna, pencil

If Rosie Revere could build a cheese-copter, you can surely make this costume! Pair a white shirt with a red and black striped skirt to mimic her signature dress. Top off the look with a red head scarf and a pencil for sketching blueprints.  Voila! Your little Rosie is ready for her next adventure.
Halloweenblog2-tiger Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

You’ll need: Suit and bow tie, top hat, face paint

While some children love tea parties, others live to tumble down hills. Mr. Tiger is the perfect alter-ego for the kid who loves both. Use black face paint for tiger stripes, or get ambitious and paint an entire black and orange tiger face. With a suit, bow tie, and top hat, Mr. Tiger will tackle trick-or-treating in style.
B2S-balloonforisabel A Balloon for Isabel

You’ll need: Graduation cap and gown, DIY porcupine headband, a balloon

Isabel wouldn’t rest until she found a way to pop-proof all the porcupines, so be prepared to DIY-til-you-drop for this costume! A graduation cap and balloon are must-haves, but the true test is in the porcupine spines: we suggest hot-gluing popsicle sticks to a headband, and sticking gumdrops or colorful pom-poms to the ends to achieve Isabel’s colorful look.
Halloweenblog-harold Harold and the Purple Crayon

You’ll need: Blue footie pajamas, purple crayon

Wouldn’t you love to be Harold for a day and walk around drawing the adventures you want to have? Send your little one on an artistic adventure this Halloween with just some comfy footie pajamas and a crayon (find a large novelty crayon or make one from felt or foam).
Halloweenblog-amelia Amelia Bedelia

You’ll need: A long blue or black dress, black tights, black shoes, a white apron, black hat or headband, craft flowers, and a pie (optional)

Introduce your little one to silly Amelia Bedelia for a good laugh and a good costume — just don’t “spot” the dress the way she does, or someone will be in for some chilly trick-or-treating! A pie might be tough to carry around while trick-or-treating, but it makes the perfect snack to come home to afterwards.
Halloweenblog-george Curious George

You’ll need: Brown hooded sweatshirt, brown sweatpants, brown and peach fabric/felt, a banana

Who doesn’t love this mischievous monkey? For a fun—and comfy—costume, turn a jump suit into a monkey. Use fabric or felt to make rounded monkey ears to pin or stitch onto the hood. Create a monkey tail that can be pinned to the sweatpants (a brown feather boa makes for a fluffy tail, or craft one out of a piece of long brown felt). A banana is a delicious final touch!


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In Memory



It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Loretta A. Barrett, a founding member of RIF and president of Loretta Barrett Books Inc. Loretta served as Secretary of the Board and as a member of the Executive Committee from 2009 to 2013.

Before embarking on her successful publishing career, Loretta taught in a Philadelphia high school where she saw first-hand the need for  interesting, high-quality reading materials.  When RIF founder Margy McNamara approached Loretta in her position as an editor at Doubleday & Company, Loretta immediately perceived the value of RIF’s mission and leapt at the opportunity to persuade publishers to offer book discounts to RIF.

Loretta brought tremendous passion and drive to the organization for nearly 50 years, always keeping at the forefront the goal of  better books for children. Margy McNamara Pastor, daughter of RIF founder Margy McNamara, recalls Loretta as “a woman who enhanced thousands of children’s lives. She was one of those special people that enrich all of us.”

A mass will be held at 10am on Tuesday morning, October 14, at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, 46th West 16th Street, New York, NY and a celebration of her life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, it was Loretta’s wish that memorial gifts be made to Reading Is

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Kentucky Creativity



What’s on Principal Steve Carroll’s schedule? In between the work that keeps every principal busy, he also has harvesting peppers with the kids penned into his calendar — and that’s an appointment he’s not going to miss.

This is all happening at Southside Elementary in rural Lee County, Kentucky. Southside serves 200 children, 86% of whom qualify for free and reduced lunches, and is one of the 173 schools participating in our Summer Reading Success program. Through partnerships with the local 4-H and the University of Kentucky, Southside students are also involved in two programs that allow them to see first-hand how food is cultivated and where it comes from. And now their teachers are connecting these lessons to math, science, and reading using their RIF books.

Teachers across the country are doing more than we could have imagined to engage kids in learning using the tools we’ve given them. We’ve talked a bit about our Summer Reading Success program and the elements that make it unique and effective: resources for parents, trainings for teachers, multicultural book collections for 2,800 classrooms, and, of course, tables full of books for kids to choose from and keep for themselves. But there’s even more than that going on in these schools.

On Southside’s campus, elementary school students are growing cherry tomatoes and peppers right outside the cafeteria window, then learning to make salsa with them and seeing their very own veggies appear in the lunch line. Parents are getting involved, too. After all, “When you’ve got thirty kindergarteners making salsa, a few extra hands are always good!” Principal Carroll told us, laughing.

The second program, part of a research project by the University of Kentucky, is connecting the school to local farmers and their goods. Following from the idea that children who understand where their food comes from will eat more of it, the project involves filling the cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, as well as taking students out to visit the farms where their food is grown.

And it doesn’t end there. Southside teachers have taken the opportunity to bridge these programs with other areas of learning using the multicultural collections we’ve given them. Books like No Monkeys No Chocolate, First Peas to the Table, The Patchwork Garden, How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?, and Grandpa’s Garden all include themes of gardening, nutrition, and eating food you’ve grown yourself. Using our activities, students learn about growing food before their trips and harvests, and can practice math skills of measuring and estimating, all while strengthening their reading skills. If you’re gardening with your little one, you can do the same thing! Download our activity sheets to use with the books for related vocabulary, math exercises, and questions to get kids really thinking, and stay tuned for more ideas on how to use children’s books to teach content and keep it fun!

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10 Years Strong



Having reached a significant milestone in our partnership with Kappa Kappa Gamma as their national philanthropy, it seems like a good time to take a moment to say, “Thank you, Kappas!” Thank you for your commitment to the RIF mission of putting books into the hands of underserved children. Thank you for the critical role you play as volunteers and fundraisers. Thank you for a 10-year partnership that we know is making a difference for students nationwide.

Next month, we’re honoring Kappa Kappa Gamma as RIF’s October Donor of the Month for all that the organization and its members do to bring the joy of reading to children. We know that Kappas are holding fun-filled “Reading Is Key” events at local programs where they inspire children to become the next generation of book people. Kappas have helped raise more than $435,000 – that’s 174,000 BOOKS! – for RIF National during our partnership, above and beyond funds raised for local RIF programs.

This summer, we had a blast joining the Kappas at Convention in Houston where we had the opportunity to celebrate this milestone, discuss the impact of Kappas’ philanthropy work, and launch a great new set of tools: a Kappa-inspired RIF book collection, book pack, and literacy activity sheet! Representing core Kappa values from friendship to community service, these resources are an exciting new way for Kappas to support RIF programs.

Thanks again to our great literacy partners at Kappa Kappa Gamma!

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This summer, we partnered with 21 Boys and Girls Clubs in Delaware for an eight-week summer reading program serving 1,515 children!

Through a research project, we were able to donate 8,800 books and activities. A Summer Reading Kick-Off featured parent and community volunteers to read with and to children, with Sallie Mae volunteers reading to children during the week-long kick off from May 12 to May 16. These pictures were taken at the Dagsboro Boys and Girls Club back-to-school RIF celebration, featuring Betty Harmon’s team of 250 kids from Rehoboth Beach, Oak Orchard, Georgetown, and Dagsboro clubs. Each child received a RIF bag, a t-shirt, and, of course, BOOKS!

Anthony Boswell, Chief Operating Officer of Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware noted, “Research clearly indicates that when kids don’t read appropriately leveled books over the summer months, they can lose comprehension skills. I am excited that we can help our kids improve their reading. This is one of the best things we can do to improve their future opportunities.”

Because children often associate reading with school and work, a major goal was to encourage the children to enjoy reading, and to spark an interest the information within the covers of a book. Parents, very supportive from the beginning, were eager for this kind of addition to the Boys and Girls Club programming!


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September 15 to October 15 marks a month to recognize and celebrate the cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors hail from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Spain. Be sure to look into local events or exhibits by museums and libraries near you for different ways to engage the children in your life. We’ve also collected some of our favorite reads for learning about Latin American food, art, writing, and history:

HH-Yum Mmm Que rico Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que rico! Americas’ Sproutings by Pat Mora, Rafael López (illustrator) – Bright, energetic illustrations and clever food haikus guide you on a culinary tour of the Americas.
 HH-fandango El Fandango de Lola by Anna Witte, Micha Archer (illustrator) – Lola wants to learn to dance flamenco like her mom used to, so Papi starts giving her secret lessons. Can she practice enough to surprise Mami on her birthday? (en español)
HH-diego Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh – Diego Rivera, one of the most famous painters of the twentieth century, was once just a boy who loved to draw and paint. What stories would he tell through his art if he were painting today?
HH-pele Pelé, King of Soccer by Monica Brown, Rudy Gutiérrez (illustrator) – Does the soccer fan in your house know the story of Pelé, the King of Soccer? Even a poor boy with no sneakers and a grapefruit instead of a ball can become a hero – and did!
parrots over puerto rico Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore – Through stunning collages, discover the fascinating history of Puerto Rico’s people and its rare parrots.
HH-neruda To Go Singing through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda by Deborah Kogan Ray – The story of Neruda’s childhood, mixed with excerpts from his own writing, weave together the tale of the shy boy who became one of Latin America’s most celebrated writers.
HH-thepotthatjuanbuilt3e The Pot That Juan Built by Nancy Andrews-Goebel, David Diaz (illustrator) – Meet Juan Quezada, whose re-interpretation of traditional pottery transformed a poor Mexican village into a community of artists.
HH-My-Papa-Diego-and-Me My Papa Diego and Me by Guadalupe Rivera Marín, Diego Rivera (artwork) – Diego Rivera’s daughter shares stories in English and Spanish about her childhood, her artist father, and the children in his paintings.

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It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of Arthur White, a founding member of RIF, social justice leader, and lifelong advocate for children and families.

In addition to co-founding RIF and serving as emeritus board member, Arthur founded Jobs for the Future, a non-profit focused on job education and training needs. As Educational Advisor to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he was also successful in establishing the Connecting through Literacy: Inmates, Children, and Caregivers (CLICC) project in partnership with RIF. CT Appleseed-CLICC works to improve the literacy and family relationships for at-risk children who have a parent in prison. Read the New York Times obituary for more on his inspiring life.

A service will be held in Arthur’s memory on Sunday, August 31 at 11:00am, at Temple Beth El, 350 Roxbury Rd, Stamford, Connecticut.

The White family asks that memorial gifts be made to CT Appleseed Connecting through Literacy: Inmates, Children, and Caregivers in Arthur’s honor.

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Double the Dreams


As the summer winds down, kids are selecting their first-day-of-school outfits and preparing to board yellow buses. Since most children living in poverty have no books to call their own, some of their backpacks will be lighter than others. But we’re working to change that.

With your help, we can give twice the books to kids in need this back-to-school season.

Through September 30, when you give to RIF, Barnes & Noble College will double your gift up to $50,000. That means twice the journeys kids will go on through books, and twice the characters they’ll encounter. It could mean double the vocabulary they look up and learn, or the dreams they imagine for themselves after finishing a story.

So get in the spirit and help us send kids back to school with double the books this year.

For even more smiles, here are some stories about kids in classrooms that are sure to get your young one excited to head back to school:

B2S-IggyPeckArchitect Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator) – Second grade teacher Miss Greer won’t let Iggy Peck pursue his passion for building in class, until only his architectural skills can save the day.
 B2S-crazyhairday Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg – Does your little one get excited for special days at school? Stanley mixes up Crazy Hair Day and School Picture Day! Whatever will he do?
B2S-balloonforisabel A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, Laura Rankin (illustrator) – Two graduates find themselves in a prickly position: their teacher won’t give them balloons like the rest of the students because they’re sure to pop them with their quills. Will Isabel find a way to pop-proof all the porcupines?
B2S-Ashok-by-Any-Other-Name Ashok By Any Other Name by Sandra S. Yamate, Janice Tohinaka (illustrator) – Everyone at school mispronounces Ashok’s name, so he decides to change it. When no name seems to fit, he talks to a teacher about his dilemma and discovers the perfect one.
B2S-namejar The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi – A great complement or alternative to Ashok By Any Other Name, this sweet story follows a girl through her first days of school after moving to the U.S. from Korea as she decides what name her classmates should call her.
B2S-horaceandmorris Horace and Morris Join the Chorus (but what about Dolores?) by James Howe, Amy Walrod (illustrator) – Horace, Morris, and Dolores try out for the school choir together, but Dolores can only sing notes that no one has heard before. Is there a place for her in the chorus?
B2S-mygreatauntarizona My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, Susan Condie Lamb (illustrator) – Not all schools are the same. Travel to a one-room schoolhouse by the creek where Arizona studies as a child and returns to as a teacher, to tell her students about the faraway places they will visit someday.

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Sky High


reeveFor National Aviation Day, we are delighted to share this note from RIF friend Reeve Lindbergh, author and daughter of aviator Charles Lindbergh. 

Nobody Owns the Sky:
How the Book Came to Be

By Reeve Lindbergh

Some time when I was growing up, I’m not exactly sure when, I learned that my father, Charles Lindbergh, was an American hero. In 1927, almost twenty years before I was born, he had flown alone in a small airplane called the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris, something that had never been done before. The flight took him just over 33 hours and made him world-famous at the age of twenty-five.

Newspaper reporters followed him everywhere he went, by himself or later when he was with my mother. She became a pilot too, and served as his co-pilot and navigator on flights they made together to survey early airline routes all over the world.

My father thought that he had become too famous. He was glad that he’d made the flight to Paris and he wanted people to believe in aviation, which was very new in those days, but he didn’t like being followed or treated like a celebrity. He and my mother wanted to have a normal life so they could raise their five children: me and my sister and our three brothers. Our parents found a quiet place to live in Connecticut and worked very hard to keep our daily lives free of reporters and media attention.

under a wingThey did such a good job that I did not fully understand how famous my father was until I grew up and left home. Then I discovered that there were museums with Lindbergh exhibits all over this country, including the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., where you can see both the Spirit of St. Louis and the Lockheed Sirius seaplane my parents flew together on the survey flights.

By the time my father died in 1974 I had grown up and started my own family. I missed my father, and in 1977 I attended celebrations honoring the 50th anniversary of his famous flight to Paris. Ten years later there were celebrations for the 60th anniversary, but I had a newborn baby and needed to stay home with my family.

While I was at home during that time I saw a PBS documentary film about flying, produced by Philip A. Hart. His great-uncle, Herman Banning, had been a pioneer aviator. The film was called Flyers in Search of a Dream, and it was about a group of pilots who flew at the same time my mother and father did in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They were just as brave and skilled and adventurous as my parents, but they didn’t receive as much attention. They were pioneer black aviators. At that time in history most black Americans were badly treated and their achievements neglected. It seemed to me that if my parents got too much attention for their pioneer aviation adventures, the black pilots definitely got too little. I wanted to learn more.

Of all the aviation pioneers in Philip Hart’s film, Bessie Coleman interested me the most. Maybe it was because she was beautiful, or because she was lively and independent and eager to learn. I think, though, it was because she didn’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams. Everything was against her when she was growing up: she was poor, she was black, and she was a woman. Women of any race could not even vote in the United States until 1920, and for a black woman to become a pilot was out of the question. Everywhere she went asking to learn to fly, she was told “No!” But Bessie Coleman did not take “no” for an answer.

While she was working as a manicurist in Chicago, Bessie learned that she might be able to learn to fly in France, where there was much less racial bias than in the United States. With the help of friends in Chicago she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to France in 1921. She studied flying at a French flying school and received her international pilot’s license there, becoming the first licensed black pilot in the world.

bessie2Bessie wanted other people, especially other young black people, to learn about flying. She traveled in Europe and throughout the United States, giving lectures and performing in air shows and exhibitions. Crowds began to gather whenever she appeared. She had followed her dreams and she was teaching others to do the same. Then, tragically, in April of 1926, while she was flying over a field in Jacksonville, Florida with another pilot the day before an exhibition, Bessie’s plane had a mechanical failure, went into a nosedive and crashed, killing both pilots.

More than 5000 people attended Bessie Coleman’s funeral service in Jacksonville. Another 10,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their respects in Chicago, where she was laid to rest.

One year later my father, a young man from the Midwest who had just spent several years flying the U.S. Mail from Chicago to St. Louis, flew the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris and into the pages of history books.

After I watched Flyers in Search of a Dream I wanted to celebrate the story of Bessie Coleman and the other black aviators. I wanted to honor the courage they showed, first by challenging racial barriers and overcoming obstacles my parents never had to face, and then by going on to join the company of pioneering American aviators.

When I started to write my own book about Bessie Coleman, I found that her story came to me as a rhyme. Later the rhyme became a book. This is how it begins:

            There was a young woman who wanted to fly,

            But the people said, “Kiss that wish good bye!

            The sky’s too big and the sky’s too high,

            And you never will fly, so you’d better not try.”

            But this woman laughed, and she just said, “Why?

            Nobody owns the sky!”


More children’s books by Reeve Lindbergh include:

  • Our Nest
  • On Morning Wings
  • The Circle of Days
  • What Is The Sun?
  • If I’d Known Then What I Know Now
  • There’s a COW in the Road!
  • Grandfather’s Lovesong
  • The Midnight Farm
  • Benjamin’s Barn
  • The Day The Goose Got Loose

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