Steel City Stories
We may be best known for getting books in the hands of kids in need, but RIF programs all around the country are doing some other amazing work. Case in point, RIF Pittsburgh.
From their Storymobiles (think libraries on wheels) to their reading mentoring programs, the impact they’re making on the children and neighborhoods they serve is profound. Here are just a handful of stories they shared while I was there …
A woman in her mid-twenties walked up to the Storymobile one day, with her toddler beside her. She asked for advice what book she should get for the child – it would be the first book he’s ever been read in his life. They didn’t have any children’s books at home. Thanks to their program, she now has regular access to books.
A tween in the North Side is a regular when the Storymobile visits his neighborhood. While many of his peers are struggling in school and falling into the wrong crowds, his nose is buried in books. He checks out 10 every other week, having read the last batch each time he returns. He made his way through the entire Storymobile by the time they were able to restock. Luckily, he can now make his way through the Harry Potter series.
Their Everybody Wins! mentoring program pairs volunteers with elementary school students, usually second or third graders. Once a week, they sit together and read during lunch. A third grader in the mentoring program told his teacher he was glad he was in the program because it reminded him of being a ninja. “When I used to read, I would miss all of the rooftops. But now when I read, I only miss some of them.”
At the end of the year, the mentors and kids celebrate their reading success. Often the mentors will also bring a little surprise. One child, whose father is in prison, told his mentor that sticky buns were his favorite treat. But because his dad’s not there, he doesn’t get sticky buns anymore. That day, his entire class got sticky buns and he got a special pack to take home along with his books.
That’s just the beginning. Pittsburgh may be known as the Steel City but it’s full of warm fuzzy.