“I like some of the books,” said Grace Shockley, 7, flipping through a Cabin Creek Mysteries book before finally taking it to be stamped out, making it hers to keep.
The Reading is Fundamental program, or RIF, visited Critzer Elementary School Tuesday, Feb. 23.
The program, now in its 32nd year in the county, distributes free books to each elementary school student in the county as well as children in the Head Start program. RIF visits each school three times every year, giving away nearly 7000 books.
“I get to order the books, so that’s fun,” said Jenafer Hardy, or “Miss Jena,” Youth Services Coordinator for the Pulaski County Library, who oversees the program.
The aim of RIF is to motivate children to read by delivering free books. Through volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provided 4.4 million children with 15 million new, free books last year, according to its website.
RIF, which has been in existence since its inception in Washington D.C. in 1966, is funded by a combination of the Congress-created Inexpensive Book Distribution Program as well as each school’s respective Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). The PTO pays approximately $1.50 per student with money collected through various fund raisers.
Unfortunately, the government funding which helps sustain the RIF program is in danger of disappearing. In President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget, funding for the program is noticeably absent.
“No government funding would mean no RIF,” said Hardy.
Members of the House of Representatives are not letting the program go down without a fight, however. A “Dear Collegue” letter supporting the RIF program is currently circulating the House and has been signed by a handful of representatives.
Rep. Rick Boucher of the 9th District has already signed the letter.
“It would make me mad (eliminating the RIF program),” said second grader Isaiah Brown. “I like getting the books for free.”
When asked how they felt about the non-profit program, members of Emma Varney’s second grade class yelled in unison “Good!” while clutching their newly acquired books.
For more information about the program, visit rif.org.