Red, White & Books!


Summer is a time when we kick back and relax and enjoy the time-honored traditions of parades, patriotic songs, fireworks, pie-eating contests and reading our favorite books by the dock.

For many children in our country, however, access to books during the summer is scarce. That’s where Macy’s comes in. From June 21 to July 12, you can provide a book for a child in need by giving $3 at your local Macy’s. As a thank you, you’ll receive $10 off* a purchase of $30 or more plus 20% or 15% off* storewide. 100% of your $3 donation benefits RIF and the kids we serve.

This July 4th, let’s all celebrate the things that make America great – including your generous spirit to help children read, learn and grow.

Looking for fun inspiration this summer? Check out RIF’s summer book lists, games and activities perfect for the whole family!

*Exclusions and restrictions apply.

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BBS Infographic Image

To commemorate this year’s Be Book Smart campaign, RIF and Macy’s commissioned a survey of parents of young children on topics ranging from summer learning to book access. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Three in five parents don’t believe their own children lose reading skills over the summer – however during the summer months, we know that all children are at risk of losing reading ability gained during the school year.
  • The majority of parents agree all kids should have access to books – yet 2 out of 3 children living in poverty have no books to call their own.
  • Roughly two-thirds of parents with young children (65%) say reading books during the summer is “extremely important.”
  • During the school year, on average, parents of young children say their child spends about 5.7 hours a week reading books, on par with time spent using a smartphone or tablet (5.1 hours) or playing video games (4.6 hours).
  • More than half of parents with young children (57%) say they will not leave home without a book for their children this summer.

The results of the survey, conducted by Harris Poll in May among 525 U.S. parents ages 22+ of 5-11 year-olds in school, are made public as Macy’s and RIF celebrate the 12th annual Be Book Smart campaign to support children’s literacy.

From now through July 12, Macy’s invites customers nationwide to give $3 at any register in-store to help provide a book for a child in need. As a thank you, Macy’s customers get $10 off a purchase of $30 or more PLUS 20% or 15% off storewide. Macy’s will donate 100% of every $3 to RIF. Since 2004, Macy’s has helped raise more than $32 million for RIF.

Let’s make sure all children have access to as many books as possible to inspire reading this summer!


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BBS Girl Stats

Summer has arrived and you know what that means – it’s time to kick off Be Book Smart and spark a child’s imagination through the power and magic of books.

From June 21 – July 12, 2015, give $3 at any local Macy’s store and you’ll help provide a book for a child who needs it most. As a thank you, Macy’s customers get $10 off a purchase of $30 or more PLUS 20% or 15% off storewide.*

The timing for the campaign couldn’t be better as we inspire children nationwide to embrace the joy of summer reading.

So be a book hero and participate today. When you do, you’ll be making summer a lot brighter for kids nationwide.

Learn more at

*Exclusions and restrictions apply. See Macy’s sales associate.

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RIF and Macy’s held a book distribution at Nalle Elementary School in Washington, DC to kick off a summer reading pilot program based on the model from RIF’s landmark research study, Read for Success.




Our thanks to everyone at Nalle, especially the students, who made the day a special one! An additional thanks goes out to Macy’s who helped fund the books for students to support reading over the summer.

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Oh, what a night!

Z Is for Moose Gala

All of us at RIF would like to thank you for lending your time, talent and resources to support our 2015 Z Is for Moose Gala and the important work we do every day of the year – distributing new, free books and literacy services to the kids and families who need them most. A special thanks goes out to Holly Robinson Peete, our mistress of ceremonies whose charm and personal stories of growing up in a literacy-focused family added to the evening’s festivities.


We congratulate U. S. Senator Roger F. Wicker and U. S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa who were this year’s recipients of the inaugural Book Champion Award. Thank you for all the work that you do on behalf of children across our nation.

Dollar General

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation was this year’s recipient of the Legacy of Literacy Award. Accepting on behalf of the foundation was Greg Sparks, Dollar General Literacy Foundation board member and executive vice president of store operations. For over a decade, RIF has been extremely fortunate to have the support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation — one of our most consistent and enthusiastic funding partners.


We’d also like to thank our Anne Hazard Richardson Volunteer of the Year Award recipients who donate their time, talents and energy to motivate children to read. From left to right, RIF president and CEO, Carol H. Rasco, awardees Maira Burns, Dr. Wanda Dawson, Ellen Halliday and Justina Johnson Head along with RIF board chairman, Jack Remondi.


In addition, we’d like to thank Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky for their wonderful rendition of the Z Is for Moose story. Their fun and irreverent humor was a wonderful way to end the evening and leave us wanting more.

We hope to see you back again next year as RIF celebrates its 50th anniversary!

P is for Pictures! Click here to see photos from this year’s gala celebration.

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Read for Success



We asked you last summer to stay tuned for big news from RIF, and we’re ready to share. Thanks to a U.S. Department of Education Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant in 2012, we began the RIF Read for Success research study to test a model aimed at reducing summer reading loss in children from economically disadvantaged communities. The results made us cheer!


The Problem

Most of us cannot imagine a world without books, without bedtime stories or nursery rhymes, without that wonderful sensation of being read to or reading to others. But study after study confirms that the very memories so many of us hold dear are not typical for millions of Americans. In fact, it’s just the opposite—reading ability, reading materials, reading motivation, and subsequent achievement in school and beyond boils down to harsh economics: For children and families from impoverished communities, two out of three have no books in the home. With 16 million children living in poverty in the United States, too many young Americans are growing up without the basic tools to achieve literacy levels that provide the foundation for future success. Every day, 8,000 students drop out of high school, and nearly half of the adults in our country read at or below a basic level needed to complete everyday activities. Children who don’t learn to read well become adults who can’t read well, and who can’t fully contribute to society.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 3.33.13 PM

Beyond the sheer economic impact of low literacy levels, thousands of children each year are missing out on everything that comes with reading well—dreaming big, feeling confident, and achieving more.

Over the summer months, all students are at risk of losing some of what they learned during the school year. When school is in session, all children learn, even if not to the same levels; they all have access to teachers, books, and learning resources. But when school lets out for the summer, poorer children don’t have access to those resources. They don’t go on field trips to the museum or zoo; they don’t go to summer camp or the beach or the mountains; they are not likely to have the very basic materials at home that would support their learning. While they may learn as well as their peers during the school year, the amount of learning they lose over the summer can put them three years behind their peers at the end of fifth grade, and four years behind at the end of high school.


Our Findings

Research tells us that, on average, more than 80% of students from economically disadvantaged communities lose reading skills over the summer. In our study, while our goal was to cut that reading loss in half, to 40%, we actually saw students in our program make significant gains in reading!


play87On average, 57% of students in the program improved their reading proficiency over the summer
– instead of 80% of children showing loss.

play87Nearly half of third graders made gains! Third grade is commonly known as the time when students move from learning to read into reading to learn. This means that young readers who haven’t mastered reading by the end of third grade are increasingly likely to be lost in more difficult content and vocabulary in the years that follow, as classwork on reading and writing about friends and pets changes to complicated subjects in biology, chemistry, U.S. history, algebra. Not having the skills to rise to the challenge is a factor for many among the 8,000 high schoolers who drop out each day.

play87Students who began with the lowest reading proficiency made the greatest gains, even those performing below the 10th percentile.

play87Strong readers improved, too. Read for Success works for children at all levels!

play87Some students also improved in science and math. Though our study did not track state tests in our 41 school systems, some schools told us that their students showed improvements in science and math assessments. When asked why, school officials said that they attributed those gains to RIF, to our lots and lots and lots of books and enrichment opportunities.


How Did We Do It?

We launched a research study in 2012 to see how schools and communities in some of the poorest, and often most rural, parts of the country could address summer learning loss. As part of the study, we distributed over 760,000 books to 33,000 children from 173 schools across 16 states. The program included science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) themed books for classrooms and media centers, as well as books for children to select and keep for themselves. We also provided training for teachers on how to use the classroom books to support their lessons, and gave special resources to parents to help them support their children at home. Finally, every school was given funds to use for further enrichment: hosting an author, bringing a traveling planetarium or zoo to the area, growing and harvesting a school garden, and other amazing projects – sometimes suggested by the students themselves! Learn more about the model here.


What’s Next?

Access to high-quality books

Giving children access to high-quality books that they can choose on their own is a critical part of our model. Children who choose books that interest them and that are on their own level are more motivated and empowered to read and learn even more! In our study, new books in the classroom and media center collections allowed teachers to integrate and connect different topics or subject areas (like history, math, and science) through stories and wonderful illustrations and photographs suited to elementary school children. These books allowed teachers to apply the concepts that children had learned in their curriculum. For example, in one second grade classroom, students reading about Rachel Carson, the founder of the environmental movement, wondered how old she would be today. Reading a book about her sparked their curiosity and led them on a mathematical journey. That day, the students learned how to do multiple-digit subtraction, even though, as one little girl told me on my visit, “We’re not old enough to do that but we figured it out.”

Teaching through texts

Not only are the books included centered on STEAM themes, most are characterized as informational texts, supporting other school subjects like history or science, and largely non-fiction. These kinds of books set the stage for the areas of learning that students will encounter in third grade, when they switch from learning to read to reading to learn. Doing certain activities, like the ones we create for our Multicultural Book Collection each year, can extend and reinforce learning beyond the book into all kinds of subjects. Children learn by doing, and these activities provide opportunities to do just that.

Schools can use RIF Read for Success

Some schools in our program have found funding to continue the program or have looked for their own ways to extend our model as far as possible. In Pamlico County, North Carolina, for example, Superintendent Wanda Dawson enlisted the entire community to ensure every student from kindergarten to fifth grade would receive books to take home over the summer. Other schools are using Title I money to provide books for family time.

We need to do more research

While this study has shown great results, we still have questions to answer. As always, we will be digging deeper to find out more about the best ways to help children with books. And we promise we’ll keep you updated.


One last thought!

Our RIF staff, including the expert advisors and training team, all feel that some of the best work we have ever done has been in the implementation of this study. The children, families, teachers, and staff of the 173 schools have been delightful to work with and a pleasure to serve. We are so grateful that the U.S. Department of Education, through its Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant, has allowed us the wonderful opportunity to add to the body of knowledge about summer learning loss, and we all feel fortunate to have been a part of this endeavor.


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Share Your Love


Update: Thank you to everyone who shared their favorite #MacysLovesMoms photos! Because of you, Macy’s will donate $80,000 to RIF to support our mission to bring books and the joy of reading to children across the nation.

Being mom is a big job, full of tall orders and nearly impossible tasks, bath times, teddy bears, boo-boos—and beautiful, unforgettable moments.

Share Your Love, Thank A Mom. This year, join RIF and Macy’s to celebrate moms and all they do with your favorite throwback pics. From April 27 through Mother’s Day, when you share your favorite mom memories on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr using #MacysLovesMoms and #RIF, Macy’s will donate $3 for every mom moment shared, up to $400,000, to mom-approved charities like RIF. Find out more about the campaign here.

We asked RIF staff to share their best photos and mom moments, and you won’t be surprised to know our moms, aunts, and grandmas were book nerds, too. Check out our memories (and mom fashion statements) below, then share your own with #MacysLovesMoms to support RIF this Mother’s Day.

 Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 12.45.42 PM Carol Rasco, President and CEOReading with her daughters was as much a part of my mother’s parenting as feeding us, having us brush our teeth at night, mind our manners and such. I remember feeling puzzled that bedtime could arrive at my friends’ homes, and they did not read with a parent as they went to bed. How did those friends fall asleep with no shared story?
Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 1.53.48 PM Tracey Beeker, VP of Marketing and CommunicationsCan you tell our Mom was a librarian? She instilled a love of books with all four of us – even though my youngest brother looks like he’d rather be taking a nap.
 Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 12.44.00 PM Aileen Moffatt, VP of DevelopmentWhen I was seven, I went to London with my Mum and Dad on vacation. The thing I remember most about London? We went to an enormous children’s bookstore and I was able to pick out whatever I wanted. All the historic sites didn’t come close to that!  Books and books and more books, or at least that is how I saw it. It was divine!  The book I remember most from that adventure was A Child’s Garden of Verse. It was SO beautiful! I still have it.
 Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 3.38.01 PM Ameesha Sampat, Communications Manager Growing up, my sister and I weren’t supposed to touch the furniture in the living room. Mom made it clear that that floral sofa was off limits. But when we shut our bedroom door and rearranged our beds and bookcases to create the ultimate reading nook, she offered ideas on how to make it cozier (protip: use lots of stuffed animals and pillows) and let us read until dinner.
Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 2.03.45 PM Jennifer Moone, Director of Government RelationsReading the Little Golden Book Little Lost Kitten with my mom was a daily occurrence in my house. We read it together so often that before long, I was flipping the pages and telling my mom the story of the kitten’s adventures, even though I was too young to read the words yet!

PrintLearn about the campaign at


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Reading Leaders



Meet the 2015 Anne Hazard Richardson RIF Volunteers of the Year! Every year we’re proud to honor RIF volunteers who have blown us away with their commitment to bringing the joy of reading—as well as the self-confidence that come with it—to children in their communities.

Read their full profiles in our press release.


VOYA-2015-MairaMaira Burns, McAllen, Texas
English Language Arts Coordinator, McAllen Independent School District

Maira knows what RIF books can mean for children and families in her community.

“Many teaching tools use experiences of things our kids are not really familiar with, like snowboarding or skiing,” she shared. “When they saw arroz con leche in a RIF book, parents were making it at home to bring to class! It’s huge for our kids to see that other people have the exact same experiences that they do.”

The best part, she says, is seeing children select books to read to their younger siblings. “They’re becoming pioneers of literacy in their own household.”


VOYA-2015-JJJustina Johnson “JJ” Head, Northern Virginia
Vice President of RIF of Northern Virginia

For JJ, RIF means family. After the birth of her first child, JJ left teaching but still wanted to contribute to her community. So when her mother—a RIF volunteer at the time who still serves on the board for RIF of Northern Virginia today—suggested volunteering for the entirely volunteer-run RIF of NOVA, JJ jumped at the opportunity. But starting as newsletter editor over 20 years ago, she could not have guessed how her relationship with RIF would grow.

“It’s so special to the kids. You think they love TV and video games, but this is so important,” she says. “These kids hand it down to their siblings. Entire families have libraries because of RIF.”


VOYA-2015-WandaWanda Dawson, Bayboro, North Carolina
Superintendent, Pamlico County School District

Wanda knows how powerful books can be. Pamlico received its first RIF books and activities after Hurricane Irene in 2011. “It devastated the county,” Wanda says. “RIF was the perfect program because people had literally lost everything. But they had the books.”

Wanda jumped at the chance for Pamlico schools to participate in a two-year RIF research study that put new RIF books in classrooms and provided children with several books to take home and keep. Now that the study has concluded, Wanda has involved the entire community in an effort to collect books to continue to give to every k-5 student before summer break. “We have children that live 35-40 miles from the library,” she says. “It’s hard to get there over the summer, and even if you can you have to choose between using gas to go to the library or for Daddy to go to work.”


VOYA-2015-EllenEllen Halliday, Brooklyn, New York
RIF Coordinator, Brooklyn Public Library

The Brooklyn Public Library has been with RIF for over 35 years. Ellen has been RIF Coordinator for Brooklyn Public Library for nearly 15 of those years. “Because we’ve had RIF for so long, we have parents who bring their kids in, and the parents were RIF kids, too,” Ellen says. “They’ll travel to find RIF.”

The Brooklyn Public Library serves the borough’s 2.5 million residents. “One of the legacies of RIF,” Ellen says, “is when we come up with new programs, we try to build in money for books that children can keep.” Currently, two additional programs include a “books for ownership” component: Ready, Set, Kindergarten!, which shows parents and caregivers what they can do to help their children’s literacy development, and Read! Write! Create!, a comic-book making workshop for children.


Celebrate with us!

The Volunteer of the Year Award winners will be recognized at our Z IS FOR MOOSE Gala in Washington, D.C. on May 19. Join us!


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Nick Baron Grammarly

by Nikolas Baron at

Five Ways to Make Grammar Fun for Kids

They don’t call it “grammar school” for nothing. Learning grammar—those pesky parts of speech, irregular verbs, even word order and punctuation marks—is an essential part of education.

Even though it’s a vital skill to master, it’s sometimes hard to get kids excited about learning grammar.

Grammarly has been developing good grammar-checking software for academic and professional settings. Through their research, understanding, and experience, here are our five recommendations for making grammar education a little less painful and maybe even—gasp!—fun.

Keep It Real
Bring grammar into the real world by incorporating text from magazines, blogs, popular books, graphic novels, cartoons, and even song lyrics. If examples from textbooks are often dry and out of touch with the interests and problems of modern kids, look instead to see if you can find the subject or the verb of the first line of a favorite song or tweet. How about identifying the adjectives that describe a favorite cartoon character? Use examples from graphic novels to look for differences among, say, the “its” family: it’s or its. Grammar and grammatical applications are all around us!

Play with Words
Grammar doesn’t have to be serious. Encourage your young learners to experiment with puns and other wordplay, writing their own silly stories, and playing with Mad Libs-style fill-in-the-blank games. “All this is play in the sense that it is free of the burden of the reader’s final judgment, but it helps students gain fluency, flexibility, and precision,” says Brock Haussamen, author of Grammar Alive!

Bite-Sized Pieces
Try breaking grammar instruction into mini-lessons that tackle one rule at a time. We’re fond of the “Let’s eat Grandma!” meme that teaches the importance of comma placement in direct address and items in a series. The idea is to master one small grammatical point—for example, misplaced modifiers—preferably using memorable examples like this classic: “This morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.” Have some fun with that one and then move on to another mini-lesson.

Make It a Game
Gamification is the technique of applying the principles that make games addictive to other activities. You can turn learning into a game by devising your own “level up” and rewards system (perhaps based on the mini-lessons above), or you can check out one of these games. Play on!

Start with the Concrete
Little children naturally progress from concrete to more abstract. When babies learn to talk, their first words are typically words they can see or do: baby, bottle, doggy, Mama, Dada. So follow this natural example from speech: start with things children can see (nouns) and do (verbs). Add from there. What colors are the things children see? How many? What kind? Those three questions produce adjectives! No need to make children cry by beginning with the differences among the two/to/too family yet. Start with the concrete and build from there to include traditional grammar as a part of learning!

What are your tips for teaching grammar to kids? Share your thoughts in the comments!

by Nikolas Baron

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in elementary school, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at Internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

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Girl Power!


Each year, Women’s History Month celebrates the contributions of women, weaving their stories into our nation’s history. With the books below, you can go one step further. Women across the globe have made and continue to make an incredible impact on their countries and on our world. Use the books below to introduce your girls and boys to women who defied norms to make discoveries, create art, and ultimately change the minds of people around them.  These stories and others like them teach kids the value of determination and self-confidence when chasing their own dreams.

 amelia_zora Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (illustrators)  – Your A-Z guide on female artists, explorers, inventors, and activists who made an important impact on our world.
 mattie Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully – Meet “the Lady Edison,” a woman who was already wearing out her toolbox with inventions at the age of twelve and went on to create and perfect the machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags still use today.
 wangari Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter – When Wangari discovers that many trees across Kenya have been cut down and that the soil is no longer fertile for crops, she gathers the women of her village together to bring back the beauty of their home, one seedling at a time.
 Halloweenblog2-rosie Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty – Rosie loves inventing all kinds of machines, devices and solutions, but it can be discouraging when they don’t all work as she wishes they would! Join Rosie as she learns an important lesson from her great aunt and finds the inspiration to keep inventing.
 summer_birds Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, Julie Paschkis (illustrator) – During the Middle Ages, everyone” knew” that insects were evil and came from the dirt. But Maria wasn’t so sure. See how one girl disproved an ancient theory through her dedication and powers of observation.
 little_sap Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin by Michelle Lord, Felicia Hoshino (illustrator) – In this beautiful work of historical fiction set in Cambodia, little Sap joins the royal dance troupe to support her family and learns that she is much more than a just a girl from a poor village.
 amelia_eleanor Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Brian Selznick (illustrator) – Based on an actual night flight shared by Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt, this story highlights the friendship and mutual respect between two powerful, independent women.
 mrs-harkness Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, Melissa Sweet (illustrator) – When her husband passes away during an excursion to China, Mrs. Harkness makes up her mind to continue his expedition.
 yasmin Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, Doug Chayka (illustrator) – Set in Bangladesh, Yasmin works hard in the brickyard to help support her family, but dreams of going to school and changing her life. Will her secret plan bring her closer to her goal?

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