You’re on fire!


RIF kids have a message for Macy’s and everyone who supported our Be Book Smart campaign this year:


This summer, children will explore new worlds because of you. They will travel to outer space. They’ll make new friends and meet fantastical creatures.

Thanks to you and our 11-year partnership with Macy’s, we’ve given millions of kids in need free books that will take them to places they’d never dreamed possible. Read the official press release for more on this year’s campaign.

Our 2014 Be Book Smart campaign may be over, but those children’s journeys are just beginning — and your contributions will help them write their best life stories.

We’d also like to extend a shout-out to every person who entered our photo sweepstakes to help spread the word about Be Book Smart and the importance of summer reading. Enjoy the winning photos below:

Adriana-winner1 Favorite spot: On the water
Book: How to Babysit a Grandpa
Style: Surfer
Lynn_Schussel #BookSmartSummer #currentlyreading #sandals #rainbow at the #beach
 KBaxter-square It’s a #BookSmartSummer AND a #CookSmartSummer! I read this book cover to cover!
CarolynRiedel Ready for the #WorldCup this #BookSmartSummer!

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Survey says…



When summer rolls around, we’re all ready for a break. Whether that’s romping about outside, spending time with friends, or catching up on sleep, everyone has an idea of what it means to relax and recharge. But it seems like reading is getting left off the list.

In a new survey from RIF and our partner Macy’s, we asked over 1,000 parents of children ages 5-11 to talk about their kids’ summer reading habits. What we found was not all sunshine: during the summer, children spend nearly three times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading.

Despite research that shows the importance of summer reading in preventing kids from losing literacy skills, only 17% of parents think reading is a top priority over the summer. 60% of parents surveyed didn’t believe their child loses reading skills over the summer, although existing research highlights summer learning loss as a major problem, especially for children from low-income families.

Here’s what else we learned:

  • On average, parents say their child spends about 17 hours a week watching TV or playing video games, another 17 hours a week playing outside and only about 6 hours a week reading.
  • Parents who consider reading to be extremely or very important are twice as likely to have a child who reads every day.
  • Children who were involved in a reading program last summer were up to two times more likely to read every day — but over half of parents said their child did not participate in a reading program at all last summer.
  • Last summer, children who read because they wanted to were twice as likely to read than children who read because they had to.
  • Despite the proliferation of e-books and digital formats, 83% of parents said their child preferred print books for summer reading, compared to 7% preferring tablets and 4% preferring e-readers.

While summer is the best time for all those experiences that make childhood so sweet — ice cream, camping, fireworks — it’s also a special time when children can choose to read exactly the books that interest them. Remember to let kids pick the books they want to read, and dig in to our special summer materials to work reading into all kinds of activities.

Download these goodies today!

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Snap to it!



School is out, sunglasses are on, and everyone’s got summer on the mind. For those of you who’ve been supporting RIF for years, you know what that means: It’s time to Be Book Smart.

In the 11th year of our partnership with Macy’s, we’re making it even easier to support children’s literacy and help us give books to kids in need. Together with Macy’s, we’ve already given away more than 10 million new books and have no plans to slow down. So keep your cool as the weather gets warmer and get involved in our biggest fundraiser of the year.

From tomorrow until July 13th, you can visit your local Macy’s store and give $3 that will go to RIF to provide a book for a child. When you do, you’ll get $10 off of a $30 Macy’s purchase.

Or signal boost the campaign from the comfort of your smartphone: Show us your summer book style in our #BookSmartSummer Photo Sweepstakes and you’ll be entered to win a $500 Macy’s gift card.

For the children we serve, books will be their summer travels. And books will keep them from losing literacy skills when they’re out of school. But two out of three kids living in poverty don’t have books. You can help us put books in kids’ hands and spark their imaginations this summer with Be Book Smart.

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Beach Party


For the second graders at Pamlico County Primary School, a little rain was not enough to throw a dark cloud over their beach-themed reading celebration last Tuesday. Outfitted with flower leis and their RIF backpacks, they arrived ready to choose their new books and stretch out on their beach towels to read them.

pamlico2-julianaJuliana wants to be a dog trainer or veterinarian one day, so she made sure to pick up a book about bigger dogs as well as one with mini-schnauzers, because she’ll “need to know about all kinds of dogs for the future.”

Ayden was so excited when he found a new book about volcanoes that he just held it proudly over his head for his classmates and teachers to see. “I’m just fascinated by lava. You can’t really play in lava.”

One student said it was the best day of his life –“It’s my birthday AND I get five new books to take home just for me.”

In places like Pamlico County, when school doors close for the year, children from low-income families have limited access to books and educational enrichment opportunities. As a consequence, they can lose more than two months of reading skills before getting back into the classroom.

For the 16 million children who live in poverty in the U.S. and are falling further behind their peers from middle and high-income families each year, their learning loss can add up to four full years by the time they reach high school graduation. We need to get creative to inspire these children to fall in love with reading and develop the skills they need to succeed.

That’s why we’ve rolled out Summer Reading Success, a multi-year summer reading program and research study funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant. Our goal is to prevent this dangerous summer slide and help kids thrive through an affordable approach that can scale across the nation.

pamlico-4In a nutshell, the program provides 2,800 elementary classrooms with the tools to fight the summer slide, including resources for parents and teachers, and brand new books for students to choose from, read over the summer, and keep as their own.

But the real story is what’s happening on the ground.

Across the country, 173 schools enrolled in our Summer Reading Success program are holding events like Pamlico’s beach day. These reading celebrations, where students get to select books at their reading levels, take place just before summer break. Their book options span myriad topics from dog heroes to disaster survivors to dinosaur dinners and everything in between. Schools and teachers receive our custom training and resources to help students engage deeply with the books they choose.

And as a result, children are coming up to us saying things like, “Did you know that chocolate comes from the rainforest, and if we didn’t have any rainforests we wouldn’t have any chocolate?” We can see firsthand that they’re getting hooked on reading and learning.

We’re excited that results from the first year of the program look promising, and we’ll keep you updated as the study progresses. For now, you don’t have to take our word for it. Just take a look at these smiling faces:


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At RIF HQ, we get a lot of letters and photos from RIF programs around the country.  In addition to the endlessly adorable thank you notes from RIF kids, we get updates on book distributions and summaries of inspired reading events that our volunteers invent and execute all the time.

And sometimes, we get a story we just have to share.


Last month, at Monroe Intermediate in Alabama, a fourth-grader named Justin browsed his school’s RIF library for something to read. The book he chose, It Jes’ Happened, is a children’s book out of our 2014 Multicultural Collection about the life of Bill Traylor, a self-taught artist who had grown up as a slave and only began drawing after he moved at 80 years old to Montgomery, Alabama. He drew pictures of his childhood memories, of his life on the farm, of people he saw in the city, and is now considered a great American folk artist.

It’s a captivating book. An incredible, true story told simply and accompanied by colorful, evocative pictures. But something more kept Justin flipping through those pages. He’d seen the man in the pictures before, but where?

A photo in his grandmother’s home. Of all places.

On an unexpected journey through a book sitting in his school, Justin had come face to face with his great-great-great grandfather Bill. What an incredible experience!

However slim the chances, these moments happen. And we plan to keep making them happen. Take our pledge or give to RIF to support all the kids like Justin who could be traveling into the future – or making deep, deep connections to the past – with reading.

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Books are mirrors


Did you see the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign launched at the beginning of the month? Authors and Book People across the U.S. have ignited a fierce social media movement to show that readers want stories with a greater range of perspectives, experiences, and faces.

At RIF, we’ve been working to bring high-quality diverse books to children since 2007 with our Multicultural Book Collection, and it’s amazing to see so many people rally behind a cause that we know is important. Books are powerful windows and mirrors for us all, and can inspire children to dream bigger and climb higher.

Check out some of our favorite tweets below, and add your voice to the movement.

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We’ve got a few special items left from our gala auction last month, and they’re on sale from now until May 27th.

Make a bid if you’re feeling lucky, or go ahead and buy your favorite item. 100% of your purchase supports our mission to provide books and literacy resources to kids in need. Check out our fabulous goods!




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Hey, Moms: THANKS!


UPDATE: The campaign has now ended. After an incredible turnout within the first three days of the campaign, we hit Macy’s giving goal. Thanks to your participation, Macy’s will donate $90,000 to RIF! And guess what? You can still send these lovely e-cards until Mother’s Day on May 11th and enjoy our mom-inspired booklist and activities.

When’s the last time you thanked your mom?

With help from Macy’s, overwhelm her – and all the Moms in your life – with thanks this year. From Monday, April 28th through May 11th, send a Mother’s Day ecard and Macy’s will donate $2 to RIF – for every single card sent. You can send up to 10 cards a day by email and 15 by Facebook, every day.

mom cute   elephant-cute

So be generous! You know Mom would be. Pick RIF when you choose your card, and tell her that while you’re thanking her, you’re also helping get books to the children who need them most.

For those of you with children in your life, here are some of our favorite kids’ books about moms and their special kind of love:

hush Hush! by Minfong Ho, Holly Meade (illustrator) – In this beautifully illustrated Thai lullaby, Mom must go around quieting the creatures of the night whose sounds threaten to wake her sleeping baby.
my-first-day My First Day by Steve Jenkins, Robin Page – Has your kid ever asked you what happened on the day they were born? Textured cut paper portraits bring 22 animals to life on their first day of existence as you learn which ones had Mom nearby to help and which were on their own from birth.
lucky-ducklings Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore, Nancy Carpenter (illustrator) – When Mama Duck takes her little ones for a walk through town, one by one they fall down into a storm drain! Can three firemen and a tow truck driver reunite Mama Duck with her ducklings?
touch-the-sky Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina, Eric Velasquez (illustrator) – Young minds will be inspired by this true story of Alice Coachman, America’s first African American Olympic gold medalist, who never forgets how hard Momma works so that Alice could rise high.
snow-school Snow School by Sandra Markle, Alan Marks (illustrator) – Follow two young snow leopard cubs as their mom helps them grow strong and teaches them how to survive in the snowy mountains.
Tea_Cakes_for_Tosh Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons, E. B. Lewis (illustrator) – Tosh loves spending time baking with his grandma and listening to her stories. When she starts to forget a favorite recipe, Tosh has an idea that will keep their tradition alive.

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Thinking Green


Get your kid in gear for Earth Day on April 22 with these “green” reads from our 2014 Multicultural Book Collection. Some of the books feature activities that are sure to inspire the nature-lover in your young reader.

the barefoot book of earth tales The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey, Anne Wilson (Illustrator)  — Travel around the world with folktales about living in harmony with nature. Each story comes with an activity, like making a cornhusk doll or a mini water garden.
beetle book The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins — Did you know that one out of every four living things on earth is a beetle? Find out more fascinating facts about the world of beetles in this beautifully illustrated book.
the eye of the whale The Eye of a Whale: A Rescue Story by Jennifer O’Connell — This true tale of an extraordinary whale reminds us of the unique connections we have with animals and the importance of caring for their habitats.
parrots over puerto rico Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore — Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home.  These are Puerto Rican parrots. Learn how this special species was saved from the brink of extinction.
patchwork garden The Patchwork Garden by Diane De Anda — Toña wants to grow vegetables the way her abuela did when she was little, but has to get creative since her city apartment is surrounded by cement.
track the scat Track that Scat! by Lisa Morlock, Carrie Anne Bradshaw — Finn heads out for a walk in her brand new shoes, only to step in scat…again and again! This story is sure to get lots of giggles, while learning scat facts for different animals.

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Whether you’ll be joining us next month in Washington, D.C. at RIF’s 2014 Cat in the Hat Gala or not, you can already get in on the fun — our gala auction is now open! Register online and bid on one-of-a-kind items today.

RIF’s auction is known for the original artwork created and donated by well-known children’s illustrators. Illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi worked with his six-year-old daughter, Sophia, to create his original painting for this year’s gala. See their process below, and their mention in last week’s Publishers Weekly.

This year, you can also bid on unique experiences and vacations, sports memorabilia, and rare, collectible Dr. Seuss artwork. Click to see all the fantastic items we have for you this year. Bidding will remain open until 8:30pm on April 24, the evening of the gala, and winners will be posted on our website the following day. Happy bidding, Book People!

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