About Us

Challenge

"If, at the current pace, America continues to lose the habit of regular reading, the nation will suffer substantial economic, social, and civic setbacks.”
- Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

Did you know that…

  • 60% of kindergarteners in low-income families do not have a single age-appropriate book in their home?
  • The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home? 
  • Reading for pleasure correlates strongly with academic achievement?
  • 90% of children living in poverty in Los Angeles have parents with “below or no” literacy skills?
  • When students read books of their own choosing, they are more likely to be motivated, independent readers.
  • More that 65% of all State and Federal correctional inmates can be classified as low literate.

Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California’s primary goal is to compel children to read by putting books of choice in the hands of those who otherwise would not have access to them - books they will be excited to read purely for pleasure.  We seek to create a culture of literacy and an environment that supports it by building the home libraries of children and fostering a community that rallies around literacy. 

Program

“Reading is more than a pastime.  In today’s world, it’s a survival skill.  A child who can read is a child who can learn, and a child who can learn is a child who can succeed.”
                                   ...former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

 

 

For 45 years, Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California has taken special pride inspiring the most resource-deprived children in Los Angeles and Orange County to read for FUN! We believe that developing a passion for reading, reading for fun, is the greatest gift we can give children on their road to literacy. By bringing communities together in this mission, we have witnessed thousands of life-changing moments and received innumerable testimonials from grateful children, parents, and school teachers.

RIFSoCal is exclusively focused on improving literacy in disadvantaged communities through our Motivational Reading Program. At the core of the program is the “book event,” special celebratory activities that culminate in each child selecting a book to take home as his/her own. Letting a child choose a new book to keep as their own is one of the most powerful, yet simple tools we have to support our children’s development. Most people don’t know that 60% of kindergarteners in low-income families do not have a single age-appropriate book in their home.

The program has been a success for over 45 years because of its following unique elements:

Community Involvement. Three book events each year, at each of 250+ sites (which include high-poverty elementary schools, preschools, Head Starts, and community-based organizations in Greater Los Angeles and Orange County) are planned, organized and conducted by volunteers. Volunteers at each site develop the event, selecting, packaging, and delivering the books to the sites, and reading to and motivating the children to read. Volunteers (over 6,000 each year) include parents and other relatives, teachers, librarians, school administrators, civic groups, and others, who all work together to effectively build a community that supports literacy.

Reading for fun. The children decide for themselves what book they would like from a large selection of brand-new, high quality, age appropriate titles. We ask that the books not be used for school assignments or given as rewards. We want each child to choose a book that he or she will enjoy for its own sake, a book that will compel them to read for fun and pleasure, thereby creating a habit of reading. It is well established among literacy researchers that when students read books of their own choosing they are likely to be more motivated, independent readers. 

Pride of ownership. RIF books are brand new and provided to the children at no cost. For many of the children we serve, they are the only new books they own. Children and their families read and re-read the books, and often create a special place for a home library to display the books. 

Research affirms the impact of RIFSoCal’s program model. Schools that emphasize literacy and engage strong parental support see higher reading scores. Scholastic, a leading provider of children’s literacy resources, confirms the importance of books in the home and the power of choice in motivating children to read, finding that 90% of children are more likely to finish a book they have chosen themselves, and that having a large book collection at home has a greater impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income.   

Program Impact

Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is the country’s largest RIF program. Our work to close the opportunity gap one book at a time empowers young minds to embrace the world of reading and develop a love of learning.

As of our 45th anniversary in 2017, we will have served 1.5 million children, and provided them with more than 4.7 million books.

Based on the large body of research that shows the importance of early reading experiences, the program targets children in Prek – 8th grade at schools with a high proportion of students from low-income families. We also place an emphasis on reaching children with special needs, and through non-school settings such as medical clinics, family courts, Cedars-Sinai COACH for Kids, and USC’s Violence Intervention Program. Of the 71,500 children we will serve in 2017-2918, 91% are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, 92% are in grades PreK – 3, 8% are in grades 4-8, and 9% have special needs. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, 6,632 RIFSoCal volunteers conducted 645 motivational reading events, distributing 206,003 new books to 66,416 unduplicated children at 227 sites.

RIFSoCal’s strategic plan is focused on continuous expansion. Between 2013 and 2018 we will have grown by an astonishing 39%! In the 2017-2018 program year, our growth is highlighted by our continuing expansion to serve children from PreK- 8th grade: 20,000 children in Orange County, and every Prek8th grade student in the city of El Monte. Based on current research highlighting reading and older children, including Scholastic's recently released 5th edition reading report, we know this is a critical area of need.

  • The percentage of children who read for fun drops with age.
  • Reading enjoyment, and the percentage of children who say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, drops sharply after age 8.

The results of a May 2017 survey of school principals and site coordinators clearly demonstrate the impact of the program:

96% believe the program has directly increased students' love of reading;
95% believe the program is an important literacy tool for the school;
94% believe the program has led to an increase in students' independent reading;
89% believe the program has increased parent involvement in their child's literacy development; and
88% believe the program has increased parent and community involvement in the school.

Sample comments include:

  • Students take great joy in building their personal library. They love having their own books.
  •  The enjoyment of reading books has increased tremendously.
  •  We serve low-income families, so children receiving books to start their own home library is huge. Parents and children reading together at events is the beginning of bringing literacy into their everyday lives.
  • The children I work with are reluctant readers; the program has changed this so many times.
  • The best thing about the RIF program is the building of community through literacy. It promotes a more committed collaborative relationship between the home and school.

We are humbled to share an excerpt of a beautifully written letter by a RIF alumna:

Reading is synonymous with my personality.  Books are my passion, my profession, my identity. I firmly believe that without individuals and programs like RIF, my passion for books, and as a result my life path, could have taken a different turn.

That day where I chose my book and wrote my name inside was one step in many that have led me to be the reader, free thinker, and librarian I am today.  I am so happy to be a “RIF Kid” and grateful that the program is still making a difference in children’s lives today. I’ll end with a quote from Children’s Author and literacy advocate Frank Serafini, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”

Thank you RIF for finding me and other children the right books, it changed my life.

-- Carly Lamphere, Librarian, Instruction and Reference, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising