7 Simple Steps

American Graduate Day returns Saturday, October 3, from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. ET (check local listings) live from Tisch WNET Studios in New York City. The live, seven-hour multiplatform broadcast celebrates those organizations and individual Champions keeping kids on the path to graduation. With Soledad O’Brien hosting, and an all-star line-up of celebs featuring, it’ll be great fun as well!

RIF Volunteer Ellen Halliday will be featuring in one of the first interviews, so tune in at 11.00 a.m. to learn more about RIF in action! Beyond the day itself, there are 7 simple steps you can take to become an American Graduate Champion:

  1. Read with a Child
  2. Mentor a Young Person
  3. Volunteer with a Youth Program
  4. Reach Out to Someone with Special Needs
  5. Take a Child to a Science Exhibit
  6. Donate School Supplies
  7. Talk to Students About Your Career

Click the links above to find out more about each step though AmericanGraduate.org, remember to watch the broadcast this Saturday, and join the conversation with #AmGrad!

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Students, we’ll keep this snappy – want to win a $500 college store gift card? Whip out your smartphone, snap a selfie of your beautiful face in your college store, and share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #GIVEME5NSD to enter – that’s it!

Selfie snapsAnd we haven’t even got to the best part yet… for every entry, $1 is donated to RIF, up to $5,000! So, basically you get to support children’s literacy just for doing what you’d normally get up to on social media!

The contest runs September 24 to October 22, and National Student Day is on October 8. Check out www.NationalStudentDay.com to find out more about this awesome event, with campus stores across the U.S. and Canada holding in-store celebrations thanking their students.

Now get out there, get snapping, and #GIVEME5NSD!

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David Miller

David Miller, Kuato Studios



A number of reports published recently on both sides of the Atlantic shed some interesting light on the benefits of digital books in children’s literacy. One of the key findings of the 2014 National Literacy Survey is that “children are more likely to have above average vocabulary attainment if they look at or read both printed stories and stories on a touch screen compared with those who read printed stories only.”


In the US, the excellent report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Family Time with Apps, suggests that any kind of reading whether digital or print has real benefits, but that “communicating with your child while reading is the key.”


The key is in the interaction – the conversation – that the child has while reading, or as a result of reading. And digital books provide a huge variety of opportunity for interaction. Animation, sound, ‘living’ text, interactive characters all provide rich conversation points for adult and child, as they discover the many learning layers that exist in the well designed digital book.


Where the digital book is itself a game, then we enter the realms of new forms of storytelling and word building. As parent and child play, no longer is this simply an experience of parent reading and child listening. The child will display many more verbal and visual cues that the parent can use to draw out further learning, and there will be many more potential re-readings of the same narrative.


The element of fun and customization is also a great motivator. Having the ability to create their own stories within the digital storybook, or choose sounds and music makes it more motivating for both child and adult to share and discuss. The point is there should be a reason for these elements – they should not be distracting – they should enrich the act of reading, and cultivate the art of reading.


Children playing Safari TalesIn this context, enter two new games from Kuato Studios, Dino Tales and Safari Tales. The uniqueness of the games’ is that they creatively bring together elements of storytelling and language skills. For example, as the child plays, their play session is captured as a colorful storybook that they can share and read with parents and loved ones. Within the storybooks, children are encouraged to choose their own adjectives, verbs and adverbs, thereby changing the tone or mood of the writing. Expressive word wheels allow children to build questions – whimsical or factual – which they can pose to a wise in-game learning buddy called Darwin, whose answers may be factual, or equally whimsical! Facts and fictions, language and imagination are all blended together one rich environment designed to foster the joy and value of reading.


The games and corresponding digital books are enhanced immeasurably by the human interaction, providing an emotional connection no tablet can replicate.


David Miller is the Director of Learning at Kuato Studios, a learning company building fun and interactive products that inspire kids to learn the new skills of the future. For more information, visit them online at www.kuatostudios.com.

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Reading Is Fundamental teamed up with State Farm on Sunday September 20 to give away thousands of children’s books, string bags and animal masks as part of the ZooFiesta celebration at the Smithsonian National Zoo!  We also handed out a bilingual animal-themed activity sheet, which is available to download here (English) and here (Spanish) for anyone wild about reading!





Joining in the fun were members of the Girl Scouts and Kappa Kappa Gamma, who came along to hand out books and spread word of the giveaway! By the end of the day, the entire zoo was a sea of yellow RIF bags and stickers, and more than a thousand children went home with books to call their own.


Girl Scouts

RIF’s participation in ZooFiesta came thanks to a Good Neighbor Citizenship Grant from State Farm.

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We love to roar for reading and we’re wild about books, so it’s no surprise that RIF is coming to ZooFiesta! If you’re in the Washington DC area on Sunday September 20, head on over to the National Zoo from 10am to 2pm to receive a  free children’s book and cool RIF gear! RIF is participating thanks to a Good Neighbor Citizenship Grant from our friends at State Farm, and in the spirit of the occasion we’ve got some animal-themed book recommendations to share with you!


8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper

8 Animal AlphabetThis is an alphabet book with a twist! Going alphabetically, every page features various different animals. But you’ll have to look carefully, because for each letter one animal gets eight separate illustrations! At the end, you’ll find fun facts about every animal. Did you know that guinea pigs hop when they get excited?




Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can't DanceAll Gerald the Giraffe wants to do is dance, but with his gangly legs and crooked knees, it’s not easy! But when he gets some words of encouragement from an unlikely friend, Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune! Packed with energetic illustrations and rollicking rhymes, this is perfect read for lively little ones!





Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

by Katherine Applegate & G. Brian Karas

IvanCaptured as a baby, a young gorilla named Ivan was stuck in a cage in a Tacoma, Washington, mall to attract shoppers. This touching picture book adaptation of a true story shows how public pressure and protesting citizens rescued Ivan and sent him to a better environment at Atlanta Zoo. Ivan’s story made a huge impact on how people saw animals, and this is a great way to introduce children to animal welfare!

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Dot Day

September 15 is International Dot Day, a celebration of the power of the creative spirit in all of us! International Dot Day is inspired by Peter Reynolds’ classic children’s book, The Dot, which shows how making just one little mark can begin a journey of surprise and self-discovery. RIF is proud to support this initiative, and in the spirit of the occasion we’d like to share some fun ideas from the Dot Day Educator’s Handbook on how you can take part, in your classroom and beyond!

Make a Guest Dot Sign-In

Get a large sheet of paper on an easel next to a collection of markers and crayons. Make sure that everyone who comes in makes their own special dot on the paper, and encourage them to get creative!

Group Dot

Cover a round table with craft paper to make a giant “dot” and ask students to work in groups to fill-in the dot together! See what emerges as students negotiate the use of space and relationships among shapes and colors within the dot!

Make Dotty Name Tags

Have kids decorate dot-shaped name tags for their lockers by making a collage of pictures that say something about themselves.

And Finally… Don’t Forget to Read The Dot!

the dot

Peter Reynolds’ delightful book tells the story of Vashti, who is convinced that she can’t draw. To prove her point, she jabs at a piece of paper to make one simple, angry dot. But that one little dot is just the beginning, in this delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us!

Help spread the word about International Dot Day by registering at http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/register

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September 15th to October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates generations of Hispanic Americans who have enriched our nation and society. Here are some of our favorite children’s books to commemorate the occasion:


Little Chanclas, Jose Lozano

Little ChanclasLittle Lilly Lujan loves her chanclas (flip-flops) in this fun bilingual tale about one girl’s love for her shoes. In fact, Lily refuses any footwear except her favorite pair of flip-flops, causing her family to nickname her “Little Chanclas.” All day, they go slippety-slap and flippity-flop, until one day Lilly dances at a fiesta and her chanclas come apart! Little Chanclas is inconsolable, rejecting shoe after shoe, until a miracle happens. She tries on a pair of soccer shoes, she goes clickety-click and… Goal! She’s a star!



Diego Rivera His World and Ours,  Duncan Tonatiuh

Diego RiveraDiego Rivera is one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century, and this is the perfect way to introduce him to younger readers! Diego is a young and mischievous boy, but his passion for art is undeniable – he goes on to become one of the world’s greatest painters! Duncan Tonatiuh also gets  young readers thinking when he asks, what would Diego be painting were he with us today? What histories and stories would he bring to life? RIF also has an activity sheet to accompany the book that’s packed with things to do: http://www.rif.org/documents/us/Diego-Rivera.pdf


The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, Samantha R. Vamos

CazuelaThis is the perfect book for anyone looking to add Spanish words to their child’s vocabulary! It tells the story of how a farm maiden and all the animals work together to make a delicious arroz con leche (rice pudding) to serve at the fiesta. Cleverly incorporating Spanish words by substituting them in place of the English words on the page before, this vibrant story makes learning the language easy and fun! Best of all, the recipe for the arroz con leche is included at the end! Once you’ve read the book, RIF’s activity sheet carries on the fun: http://www.rif.org/documents/us/The-Cazuela-That-the-Farm-Maiden-Stirred.pdf

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BAM CEO Terry Finley HeadshotFrom September 13–19, when you stop by Books-A-Million to pick up some great new reads, you’ll be able to give to RIF at the register! We asked their CEO, Terry Finley, about what children’s literacy means to Books-A-Million and what trends they see in the bookselling industry right now.


Why has Books-a-Million chosen to support children’s literacy as a priority issue?

We value reading and literacy as if it were our job – because it is. One the greatest gifts you receive as a book seller is when you see reading make a difference to a child. When a child’s eyes light up and you see their imagination going it puts a smile on your face. For a child, reading helps them discover who they are as a person. We have a responsibility to make a difference and help those children who need it the most.


As one of the largest book retailers, what are some of the trends you are seeing in the industry?

As we navigate the digital era, one of the constants is that children’s book sales are continuing to grow steadily as a new generation of parents embraces the physical book as the best way to bond with and educate their kids. These young “readers” have then fueled the incredible rise of teen and tween literature in recent years.

Another major trend is the influence of media and social media in driving the sales of physical books. The bestseller lists are consistently a reflection of the broader media environment, from movies, to video games, to social media personalities and more.

Do you have any favorite children’s books? Did you have a favorite book as a child?

We have a wonderful curated selection in our stores that we call “50 Books To Read Before You’re 5”. As a parent my favorite from this assortment is Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. I love the theatricality of the book and “performed “ it for my young children at countless times at bedtime. As a child I was a huge fan of the Hardy Boys series and the seemingly never-ending number of stories in the series. I devoured these.

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At Reading Is Fundamental, literacy is what we do every single day, and we’ll tirelessly campaign for reading and access to books for every child regardless of their background. September is especially important, though, because it’s National Literacy Month, with September 8 marking International Literacy Day. This global movement to commemorate literary awareness marks a unique opportunity for book people to come together as one and share their passion for a literate world.

Literacy is the foundation of learning and the gateway to boundless opportunities, yet here in the US 34 percent of children entering kindergarten  lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read. Among older children, 8,000 students drop out of high school every single day.6916062558_11909934e9_o

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers are matching gifts throughout September up to $50,000 at rif.org/backwithbooks, so now is a great time to give in support of literacy. RIF is working hard to get books into the hands of the children that need them most. Let’s stand together, for education, for the stories we love, and for wonderful books!

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Reading Is Fundamental is proud to be a partner of American Graduate Day 2015! The TV event will be broadcast live on PBS member stations on Saturday, October 3 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST from Tisch WNET Studios in New York City. American Graduate Day is about leveraging the power and reach of public media to focus on organizations and individual Champions working tirelessly to keep kids on the path to graduation.

American Graduate Day centers around a number of critical themes that relate to learning success, and RIF will be participating in the Early Education aspect of the day alongside partners that share our goals. We’re thrilled to announce that an interview with one of RIF’s 2015 Volunteers of the Year, Ellen Halliday, will be featuring prominently as part of the broadcast. Ellen is a RIF Coordinator from the Youth & Family Services at Brooklyn Public Library, and we couldn’t imagine a better ambassador for the work RIF does nationwide to support children’s literacy.


Ellen Halliday in action!

Ellen Halliday in action!


Want to get involved in helping students succeed in school and beyond? American Graduate Day offers 7 Simple Steps To Become A Champion. Also, viewers are encouraged to share questions and ideas before and during the broadcast using the hashtag #AmGrad. We’ll have more on this exciting partnership over the weeks ahead, as we work together to build a Grad Nation!

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