A 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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!
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!