Front Line of Literacy:
Reading Puts the FUN in Fundamental
By Lori L. Sikorski

The room is humming with the sweet sounds of small voices. Posters of Arthur the aardvark, Clifford the dog and Dr. Suess hang above the tables of books.

"Do you have any on cats?" asks one of the voices. A parent volunteer walks to another table and rummages through some of the books. "Wait, I think I would rather have the book about angels." Small hands collect the book and hold it to their chest. A big smile appears, and the volunteer helps the next child.

"Wow, you mean we really get to keep the book?" Another voice chimes in. This seems to be what's on every child's mind today. For today is RIF day at their school. There is no money taken, no child left out. Every one receives a free book, the book they want, on this day.

Reading Is Fundamental serves more than 3.5 million children annually through programs operating nationwide in 17,000 schools, childcare centers, libraries, hospitals, migrant worker camps, Head Start programs, homeless shelters and detention centers.

Two-thirds of the children RIF serves have economic or learning needs that put them at risk of failing to achieve basic educational goals.

The RIF mission is to develop and deliver literacy programs that will help prepare young children for reading by motivating them to read. Through a national network of teachers, parents, and community volunteers and public-private partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education, more than 100 national foundations and corporations and local organizations and businesses, RIF is able to deliver their service at no cost.

Founded in 1966, RIF has come a long way. In Maryland alone the numbers of schools and organizations participating in RIF have almost tripled in the last decade.

The grant money given to each RIF-approved program seems very generous, but it must be stretched and budgeted.

As this year's RIF chairperson at my daughter's school, I know first hand what that involves. Our federal grant is split with my son's school across the playground. With well over 1,100 children combined, the grant money will only provide $2 per child.

The average cost of a child's book, even if purchased at wholesale, is just under $4. Since RIF day is held three times during the school year, we must come up with the missing $10 per child. Fundraising, book fairs, and sometimes holding our hands out for donations brings some of those dollars.

But RIF is much more than raising money and giving away books. We also do reading enrichment activities to spark the children's interest. There are coloring contests, draw-your-favorite-book posters, reading logs that the children complete and even days when the children can dress as their favorite reading character.

This year we have invited guest readers to come into the school and read to the children. The guest reader will select their favorite book and share it with these children age 4 to 11. A few years back, Hillary Clinton surprised a school in Montgomery County when she appeared as a guest reader for RIF.

Any contribution, be it money or time, is greatly appreciated. It is an investment in our children and the nation's future. This holiday season would be a good time to find out what RIF is doing in your community.

"Can anyone tell me what the initials RIF mean?" a volunteer asks a group of children just entering the room.

"It means Reading Is Fun!"

The answer tells us that this program is working.

Editor's note: This is the third installment in our monthly series on learning to read in Chesapeake Country.

| Issue 48 |

Volume VII Number 48
December 2-8, 1999
New Bay Times

| Homepage |
| Back to Archives |