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.
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.
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:
Who says science is boring?
Certainly not the elementary school children we are working with across the country through our Summer Reading Success Program, funded by an Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In our program, as well as in the annual book collection that we started in 2007 with Macy’s support, we have focused our efforts on identifying ways in which science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics (STEAM), and other content areas can be introduced through books for children. After listening to teachers and parents and studying the research on reading with and to children, we have embraced three basic tenets about literacy and learning:
- Literacy — reading and writing — is a vehicle for any content teachers and parents want to teach.
- Content knowledge, with its specific vocabulary, needs to be taught and re-taught in a context.
- Most children are fascinated from birth by the world around them.
Why not take what we know about literacy, STEAM topics, children’s learning, summer learning loss, and recent research on the critical need for access to interesting books and choice in reading and apply it? Why not take advantage of young children’s natural curiosity and excitement about their environment and identify books that lend themselves to STEAM-related activities that teachers and parents can do with their children? Why not provide students, parents, classrooms, and teachers with good and interesting books that reinforce these concepts in developmentally-appropriate ways, with opportunities for doing and observing? STEAM content knowledge and vocabulary are critical to build a foundation for success later in school. What better way than to introduce them through lots of good books?
What we’re doing
Through Summer Reading Success, we are working with teachers and students in 173 schools in 41 school systems across 16 states.
Over the past two years, we have distributed 762,080 books to over 3,000 classrooms and 33,000 children in a research project focused on stopping summer learning loss for children in areas of high poverty. Our annual classroom book collections of 40 carefully reviewed and selected titles, paired with activities for teachers, parents, and volunteers, connect to the classroom curriculum and help teachers extend and support learning in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. At the end of the school year, schools hold a Summer Reading Kick-off event during which participating second, third, and fourth graders choose eight paperbacks out of a broad selection of STEAM-themed books matched to their reading levels. Children have the opportunity to select the books that interest them, and then keep those books to read and share at home.
How it’s going
“We’re watching the migration patterns of whales. Did you know you can track them? And you can figure out how many miles they travel and then mark that on a map? Want to watch, Dr. Judy?”
This was my welcome from second graders in a place so rural that neither my cell phone nor my GPS could get service. These children were using the books and materials RIF had supplied to their teacher – and they wanted to tell me about it from the second I walked through the door.
Children and families in the 173 schools in our Summer Reading Success program are finding creative ways to combat summer learning loss. Research tells us that children can lose one to three months of reading ability over the summer, which can add up to four years of loss by the time a student graduates from high school. We’re working to curb that deficit and set up children for success. The results of our study will be in by the end of this year, but preliminary findings are already promising — as are reports from principals, teachers, superintendents, and parents. Stay tuned!
As one principal wrote about our project, “To put books into the hands of children is critical; to put lots of new books – with content connections, beautiful illustrations, and strong vocabulary, at the children’s reading and interest levels – for children to then choose, read over the summer, and own, is brilliant.” We happily and humbly accept that compliment! And we thank families, schools, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant for helping us make that happen.
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:
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!
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.
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.
Juliana 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.
In 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:
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.
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.