About Us

History

Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is having an enormous impact on children, families, and communities.  As we begin our 2017 – 2018 program year, our goal is to serve 71,500 children and distribute more than 222,000 new free books of choice. Believing that the achievement of all children must matter to all of us, we work in economically disadvantaged schools, Head Start sites and social service programs all over Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

In 1966, former teacher Margaret McNamara brought a bag of used books to four boys in Washington, D.C. whom she tutored in reading. When she told the children they could each pick out a book to keep, their astonishment and delight led her to discover that these children, and many of their classmates, had never owned a single book. By that summer, Mrs. McNamara had gathered a group of school volunteers, and on November 3, 1966, Reading Is Fundamental became a reality. This original book distribution and reading program is now the largest children’s literacy organization in the nation.

Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California started in 1972 and has grown to become the largest multi-site program. As an independent 501c3 organization with its own Board of Directors, Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws, we have been cited as a model for running a successful multi-site program by RIF and both our volunteers and programs have received national recognition for their excellence. In June 2007, we received Program Excellence Honors from national RIF in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Only 25 of RIF’s more than 4,100 chapters received this honor.

Thank you to all who have helped make this dream come true!

Buggies and Bikes!

Mrs. Edith Horton Filling the Bike Bag

Mrs. Edith Horton Filling the Bike Bag

Here Comes the Book Buggy!

Here Comes the Book Buggy!

FUN and extraordinary CREATIVITY shaped the RIFSoCal we know and love today!

It’s 1970 in Santa Fe Springs Park. Imagine children running off to have fun - and finding Mother Goose playing her harp on the lawn! Then imagine the children’s delight when Mother Goose gathered them into a circle, read them a story and encouraged them to choose a wonderful new book to keep as their very own. “Books in the Park” was the creation of Santa Fe Springs Librarian, Ruth Grams - alias Mother Goose - one of RIFSoCal’s founders.

August 1972 brought “Books on Bikes.” Boy Scouts from troop 976 rode bikes to 4 city parks and 2 city street sites just to give books away to children! Strapped to their backs were Pony Express style bags decorated with “Bike it - ”You’ll Like It!” and filled with 25 personally selected books to encourage children to return to the same location each week to choose a new book or exchange the one that they had chosen the previous week.

1975 featured “The Book Buggy!” Visualize an old, black baby buggy decorated with crepe paper fringe and filled with magical, engaging children’s books.This “concerted effort to get youngsters into books and books into the hands of youngsters” was part of “America in Books for Children and Young People” co-sponsored by RIFSoCal and the California Museum of Science and Industry.

To this very day, RIFSoCal “Inspires Readers for Tomorrow,” creating magic by bringing books and children together. Let’s keep the FUN alive!

They Were Just Names….

Dorothy McKenzie with children

Dorothy McKenzie with children

Mrs. Edith Horton with Wilbur and children

Mrs. Edith Horton with Wilbur and children

Beulah Bondi with Templeton and children

Beulah Bondi with Templeton and children

First RIFSoCal bookmark

First RIFSoCal bookmark

They were just names - Margaret McNamara, Marva Sherer, Ethelwyn Sutro, Edie Horton, Amanda Stark, Ruth Grams, Sylvia Ziskind, Mark Taylor, Lois Miller, Mary Abrams, Hanna Barbera, Dorothy McKenzie, Beulah Bondi - names Phyllis Shlecter, RIFSoCal’s Chair Emeritus, said almost reverentially as she took us on a trip down memory lane. But oh the wonder of finding boxes of meticulously kept scrapbooks highlighting RIFSoCal’s first years - with pictures that brought them all to life. Get ready to visit the 70’s, hairstyles and all!