Reading Is Fundamental

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Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF) is the largest non-profit children's literacy organization in the United States. RIF provides resources such as books, STEM-themed classroom activities, professional development for educators, and parent engagement materials.

Reading Is Fundamental
FormationNovember 3, 1966; 53 years ago (1966-11-03)[1][2]
FounderMargaret McNamara[1]
Legal status501(c)(3)[4]
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
President & CEO
Alicia Levi [5][4]


In 1966, while reading to children at a school in Washington, D.C. Margaret McNamara, wife of the United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, was surprised to learn that many of the students did not have any books of their own. That experience in 1966 led to the formation of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a nonprofit children's literacy organization dedicated to making reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life.

After early organizational meetings with other educators in D.C., McNamara secured a $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support pilot activities in the District of Columbia throughout 1967, including the launch of a bookmobile to increase reach outside of classrooms.[citation needed] Following the success RIF had in Washington, the Ford Foundation increased RIF's grant to $285,000 in August 1968, enabling RIF to launch ten model programs across the country. At the time of McNamara's death in 1981, RIF had provided "more than 3 million poor children with 37 million books."[6]

In 2001, Carol Rasco, the former senior adviser to United States Secretary of Education Richard Riley, became the president and CEO of RIF.[7] The communications department encouraged her to start blogging to help the organization attain its goals of improving its outreach.[8] In 2011, Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed a bill that cut all federal funding for RIF.[9][10] During the budget cuts, several newspapers across the United States published Rasco's commentary on the situation.[11]

In 2015, RIF celebrated its 50th anniversary[12] and released the results of Read for Success, a two-year research study funded by a grant from the Department of Education. Read for Success is centered around motivating children to read by providing access to high-quality classroom book collections, summer books for students to choose and own, enriching STEAM-themed classroom activities, professional development for teachers and parent engagement.

Rasco left in 2016, succeeded by Alicia Levi.[13]

As of 2018, RIF has given 415 million books to more than 40 million children.[14]


RIF has 400,000 volunteers across the U.S. states and territories, who provide 4.5 million children with 15 million books and literacy resources.[15][16] RIF's largest priority is providing books and companion literacy resources for underprivileged children from birth to age 10.[13]

RIF's flagship program is Books for Ownership (formerly known as the National Book Program), which also supplies children with free paperback books. By 1989, the RIF had distributed 100 million books.[17]


  1. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang (February 4, 1981). "MARGARET MCNAMARA, 65, IS DEAD; BEGAN CHILDREN'S READING PROGRAM". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Lamb, Brian. "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam". C-SPAN.
  3. ^ "Reading Is Fundamental Inc". Nonprofit Explorer. Pro Publica Inc. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b "RIF Charity Navigator Profile". Charity Navigator.
  5. ^ "RIF Guidestar Profile". Guidestar.
  6. ^ Deaths, a February 16, 1981, article from Time magazine.
  7. ^ "Carol Rasco | HuffPost". Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  8. ^ Mead, Aaron (2010-10-30). "Interview: Carol Rasco, Reading is Fundamental". Children's Books and Reviews. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  9. ^ "Reading Is Fundamental Funding Eliminated". Huffington Post. 2011-03-04. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  10. ^ The source explains "More than a dozen education programs—including high-profile efforts focused on literacy, teaching, and learning—face the prospect of a permanent federal funding loss after they were chopped from a stopgap spending measure signed into law by President Barack Obama last week. The temporary spending law, intended to keep the government running until March 18 [...], finances most federal programs at fiscal year 2010 levels. But education programs such as Even Start, Striving Readers, and the privately organized Teach For America, ended up taking dramatic hits after Republican leaders insisted on cuts even in the temporary spending bill. The measure slashes nearly $750 million from the U.S Department of Education’s most recent overall discretionary budget of $46.6 billion, excluding Pell Grant funding. Literacy programs bore the brunt. The funding for Striving Readers, which was financed at $250 million, was eliminated. The Even Start family-literacy effort lost its $67 million appropriation."
  11. ^ D'Arcy, Janice (2011-11-03). "Reading is Fundamental (unless it's too expensive)". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  12. ^ Reading Is Fundamental (2015-11-18), Carol Rasco, President and CEO of RIF, retrieved 2018-07-28
  13. ^ a b "Charity Navigator - Rating for Reading Is Fundamental". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  14. ^ "Impact". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  15. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  16. ^ Lahey, Jessica. "Reading Is Fundamental Combats 'Summer Slide'". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  17. ^ "Books and socks paired up for kids". The Kokomo Tribune. August 15, 1989. p. 11.

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